The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Mobile study: Donors impulsive, social and tech-savvy

A new study on mobile giving in response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake has loads of interesting insights for nonprofits seeking to understand mobile donors.

The research, from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the mGive Foundation, shows 9% of people have texted a charitable donation from their phone. While that may seem like a low number, it actually represents a significant percentage when you consider mobile giving only started in 2008 – and in that first year, it yielded more donations that the first year of online giving.

So who are these donors?

1. IMPULSIVE: Surveyed donors who gave in response to Haiti said it was a spur-of the-moment decision – and for most, it was their first time giving with their phone. Three quarters of these mobile donors (73%) contributed using their phones on the same day they heard about the campaign, and a similar number (76%) say that they typically make text message donations without conducting much in-depth research beforehand. Six in ten have not followed the ongoing reconstruction efforts closely after making their donation, and just 3% say they have followed these efforts “very closely”. Additionally, a sizable majority (80%) have not received additional follow-up communications from the organization that received their donation.

2. SOCIAL: Yet while their initial contribution often involved little deliberation, 43% of these donors encouraged their friends or family members to give to the campaign as well. Interestingly, of those who encouraged a friend or family member to donate, three quarters (75%) did so by talking with others in person—twice the number who sent a text message encouraging others to donate (34% did this) and more than three times the number who did so by posting on a social networking site (21%).

3. TECH-SAVVY: Most of those surveyed (56%) have continued to give to more recent disaster relief efforts—such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan—using their mobile phones. They were far more likely than the norm to Tweet, access the web via their phone and own an e-reader. They also tended to be younger than typical donors.

The study underlines a wealth of recent research showing multi-channel outreach is the best approach. Mobile should be part of an integrated outreach plan. The mobile donors use a range of methods to give money, and when asked their favorite way, they prefer text messaging (favored by 25%) and online forms (24%) only slightly to mail (22%) and in-person donations (19%). Voice calling was the least preferred way of being contacted.

I also think the impulsive, social nature of these donors is reflective of much of individual giving.

So should you jump into mobile? I think text-to-give campaigns are great for large-scale humanitarian disasters that have captured widespread interest and for local events, when you have an opportunity to ask people to act in the moment. If you are hoping people will give on their phones but haven’t figured out how to create the impetus for an impulsive action, step back and solve for that challenge before anything else. Mobile, like all technology, doesn’t work on its own. You need a compelling appeal that reaches people at the right time.

For more on the study, go here.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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