By: Doug Plank
Allow me the license to incorporate some of the beginning paragraph of Charles Dickens opening in A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the age of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light…"
As co-founder of a large provider of mobile SaaS (software as a service) for the faith and nonprofit sector, I have heard many describe the value and many the disappointment of mobile since it literally burst onto the scene to raise money for Haiti relief.
Just text HAITI to a shortcode and make a $5 or $10 donation through your mobile bill. It was fast… it was easy… it was painless (small dollar amounts) and more than 5 million people did just that.
Yet most of my fellow ministry and nonprofit professionals don't realize that mobile was around for a few years beforehand and its utilization was being tested by many for text communication, polling, data gathering and raising funds.
Given the state of the economy (2007-current) and its impact on the need to replace endowment losses, donor attrition, or minimally raise at least as much as the previous year, it is understandable why most ministries and professionals who raise money for a living first started to pay attention when they saw the more than $30 million that was raised for Haiti.
For many, this also raised the false hope that micro mobile donations could/would easily replace the donation losses experienced during the down economy. And, for many, we forgot some of our basic tenants and lessons learned from the advent of online giving—that it takes a commitment to time, testing, familiarization, strategy, and reinforcement with our traditional communication that leads to adoption and optimization.
There are plenty of examples of successes and failures—many have seen the best of times with mobile and many have seen the worst of times. There has been wisdom and foolishness, belief (mixed with a lot of hope), certainly incredulousness and light. Why do I end with light? Because a couple thousand nonprofits, churches and ministries have truly been trying to figure out how best to use this new tool and there are considerable lessons learned to be shared.
Here are 10 things your church must do:
1. Mobile Lists
What development professional wouldn't want access to the most effective ubiquitous communication device being carried by literally every current and prospective donor, board member and person they serve?
Open rates for text messaging of 95%+ should be incentive enough. Compare those rates to the decreasing email open rates below 30% and diminishing direct mail rates of single digits.
Granted you'll need to have a strong enough story for them to want to be a part of your lists, but that isn't any different than needing to have a strong enough story to get our direct mail letters, email, publications and event invitations opened and read. So don't make this too complicated—start somewhere—even with your most loyal donors, current staff and volunteers…get those mobile numbers.
Finally, don't forget you have numerous audiences within our constituencies. If your messages are meaningful, you will develop mobile into a trusted and highly responsive communication channel with supporters.
I've heard time and again how valuable this early step is to developing a strong mobile strategy based on actual constituency feedback. Some of our church and ministry clients uses mobile polling during services/meetings/conferences/conventions to get instant feedback from their audience regarding ministry needs they care to address or serve, scriptural questions they want addressed from the pulpit, volunteering for areas of service and even fundraising.
4. Rich Media
5. Mobile Nudge
6. Daily, Weekly Scripture or Word of Encouragement
7. Macro Mobile Donations
Many of our clients are using this tool at special events, for special ministry appeals, and to empower peer to peer fundraising to much success.
In fact, we have seen mobile pledges of $10 dollars to $10,000 with this tool. And, the data collected is great—name, address, email, etc., whatever you want to request data-wise. If the donor is willing to share, it can be captured.
8. Mobile Web
Additionally, online donations will be moving to mobile for obvious reasons—so dollar amount and data gathering will be greatly enhanced and subsequent or recurring donations can be easily confirmed and processed.
Your initial objective should be to build a mobile list (regardless of size) that you can begin testing for receptivity to message content and frequency
Poll your "test" list(s) and get feedback on their experience. Most participants think mobile polling is a great tool and that you (the nonprofit) really care about their opinion. Also, it is great fun and actually very easy to administer.
Integrate texting to supplement and support a call-to-action being sent through email, direct mail or in person
Initiate a test "peer-to-peer" mobile solicitation campaign.
Create a story around your organization's desire to go mobile and seek feedback from your early adopters and even those who resist. Give some literal and digital ink to your mobile strategy and seek feedback.
I only have one "don't." Don't wait.
Doug Plank is the chief executive officer of MobileCause, www.mobilecause.com.