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Tapping the power of smartphones

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There is no doubt that people nowadays devote a lot of time to their mobile phones, quite often accessing the internet.

This raises an opportunity for charities, and your organisation should not need much convincing that it is time to invest in communicating with your supporters and donors via their mobile device. It is time to really consider what mobile technology can do for your organisation.

As a digital marketer and fundraiser, I know the limitations of mobile as well as its strengths. First and foremost, the strength of mobile is its ability to provide a direct response channel to support your offline fundraising and communications streams.

There are many opportunities…

Boosting charity store traffic

For charity shops, mobile can drive in foot traffic. But firstly, your organisation needs to have a smartphone app. These tips should give you good cause to start the conversation about this internally.

  1. Use Google Places (now Google My Business) to create pins for your stores in Google Maps.

It is expected that mobile searches will overtake computer searches this year. People use their phone searches mainly for location-based information. Nearly a third of searches are for such things as cafes, shops and landmarks in a particular area. To show up in these search results, your charity shops need to be represented by a Google Places pin. These pins pop up when people type a suburb search into their phone – whether they’re looking for you or not.

  1. Use beacons to send push notifications to your supporters when they are walking past one of your stores.

If you have an app, it can be paired with a beacon, placed near the entrance of your store. When people walk past who have the store’s app on their phone, it will trigger a message directly to them. The beacon can be used to communicate promotions or offer discounts. Depending on the type of beacon, messages can be received as far as 50m. from your store. Once a person has entered your store, you can send them push notifications to acknowledge this with a more rewarding offer.

  1. Use a geo fence to send push notifications to your supporters when they are near one of your stores.

Similar to a beacon, a geo fence can be set up to work with your app. It is a similar experience also for the app user – they will receive a push notification to their phone, but based on them entering into the radius of a GPS location you have set up around your store.

In summary, adding mobile into the marketing mix for your charity shops will increase foot traffic, revenue, awareness of store locations and per-customer sales (loyalty).

Gathering easy donations

Events are a great way to engage with a group of like-minded people in once place. For many organisations, events are still a big income driver. If you have planned a good fundraising event, it is a great opportunity to introduce someone who has benefited from your organisation’s work so they can share their story.

You could have some volunteers wandering around with electronic tablets asking people to make a donation via your organisation’s website, and also have paper forms available for donors to fill in if they prefer.

Now, imagine this: When your case study has emotionally connected with guests, they could be invited to simply tap their mobile phone (or credit card) against an electronic reader, and presto, their donation is made.

This would definitely snare more income at a large-scale or outdoor event. You can set the reader to take a $20 or $50 donation. No pin numbers are needed, and people are already familiar with the technology. Known as NFC technology, it is what powers PayPass for Eftpos, as well as Myki or Opal transport cards.

There are, of course, some catches.

If the donor wants to give more than the pre-set amount, it needs to be manually typed in, with a pin number if the donation exceeds $99. The easy way to do this is to tell the audience: “If you’re touched by this story and would like to give more than $50, please wave at one of our volunteers and they’ll come over and take your donation.”

Using electronic payments means you can capture new donors’ details so you can contact them again. Card readers can capture details and send a receipt, but it is a slower process as the details need to be entered manually.

The quick tap-and-donate at events is great for generating income through low-value donations where the supporter is not concerned about a receipt. But for major donor events you definitely need to know details about the donor. This again will need a volunteer with electronic pad to record such details as the donor’s name and email address so you can thank them appropriately after the event.

Gathering support via social media

Peer-to-Peer events are in a whole different league, because your organisation can engage with thousands and thousands of people and raise funds for your cause over a day, week or month. Since social media came along, such events have become far more successful. Social media is the easiest way to reach many supporters in a short time, and social media and mobile are intrinsically entwined.

A third of all internet use is by mobile phone, and people spend about 90 minutes a day browsing and sharing with their networks. About 80 per cent of that time is spent on mobile, according to cross-platform measurement company ComScore. So when it comes to peer-to-peer fundraising events, there is no better way to gather support than via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other platform where your network has a presence.

It is important to note that because so many people are primarily checking their social media on their mobile phone, it is imperative that the link you give them to support you takes them to a page or app that offers a good mobile experience. If the experience is bad, few donations will result.

Mobile is a game changer for fundraising. It is super easy for charities that have invested in an app to send out messages seeking support, track people who give support, and keep supporters updated.

Examples are the Great Cycle Challenge (though its app gobbles your phone data at a frightening rate) and Movember. They both keep people motivated and give them reasons to keep using the app for activities other than fundraising.

Free checklist

Whether you are just trying to give your supporters and donors a better internet experience or actively driving revenue, mobile matters.

While the number of mobile donations is climbing for appeals, often through SMS messages, other online channels are still predominate for now. Email and search will continue to be the key to digital fundraising strategies.

However, mobile can definitely make offline fundraising channels work harder for you – events, charity shops and peer-to-peer campaigns are just three examples.

Shanelle Newton Clapham is the CEO of Parachute Digital Marketing.

This article was originally in the print edition of Third Sector’s June Magazine, subscribe here.

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