What Nonprofits Need to Know About Mobile Fundraising

Mobile Is Taking Over

An older woman and two young women looking at a smartphone.

 Yellow Dog Productions/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Mobile fundraising is on fire. The reason? Smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached an all-time high across generations.

In 2010, smartphones were used by only 20.2% of people in the U.S. By 2021, that number is estimated to reach 72.7%.

According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of people age 65 and up own a smartphone. The generational barrier has all but disappeared.

If we are not directly giving to causes through our phones, we still may be receiving text reminders to give through email, websites, and snail-mail.

Adequate preparation for fundraising now requires much more than writing a compelling annual appeal letter. Your nonprofit fundraising message must be compatible with multiple channels, such as social media, text messages, email, and events, to reach your potential supporters. 

How Mobile Giving Can Fit Into Your Fundraising Strategy

There are several reasons your nonprofit should include mobile-giving technologies into your overall fundraising plan. The first is to give your donors every possible giving option. Your nonprofit should be where your donors are. And, if they are like most people, they are on their phones. 

The second reason to adopt mobile giving technologies is that more people in the U.S. access the internet via both desktop computers and mobile devices than just their desktops and laptops.

If you have an online donation page or conduct an online fundraising campaign (including email), you need to become mobile-savvy. Here are some tips for becoming mobile-friendly.

Get Over Your Assumptions

Even if you have an older donor base, do not assume that they are not using the Internet or do not own smartphones. Look at your website traffic (using a free service such as Google Analytics) to see which pages visitors get to via mobile devices. Make sure to optimize those pages (ideally, your entire website) to view a mobile device.

Check All of Your Online Communication Channels

Scrutinize your website, donation page, social media platforms, and email newsletter to ensure they are easy to read and access on mobile devices. Remember that some people may get to your website on a tablet or a smartphone. 

Does your site have lots of visuals? Is the font large enough? Are the links working? Ask a volunteer to check for you. You may be surprised at what they find.

Pay particular attention to your donation page. Is it easy to read? Is the form short, asking for the minimum amount of information? Can donors quickly complete their giving right there?

The business of putting in one's credit card information on a mobile device where the keyboard is far from optimal may be the biggest barrier to completing a donation on a tablet or phone. That has become easier with the use of PayPal, digital wallets, and Apple Pay.

PayPal stores credit card information so that the donor only has to log into PayPal and indicate which card to use. The digital wallet on smartphones can also store credit card information, while ApplePay does the same.

Nevertheless, many people finish their donations on their desktop or laptop computers. Also, some mobile links take donors back to your website. So it still pays to make that donation page as comfortable as possible.

The most common ways that donors give money via their mobile devices are listed below.

Text-to-Give vs. Text-to-Donate

A well-known mobile donation method is “text-to-give” (TTG), which really got its start with the 2010 international TTG campaign to help Haiti after that country’s deadly earthquake. That campaign went viral, and the American Red Cross collected many millions of dollars simply via text donations.

Using TTG is a familiar way to collect mobile donations since it has been around for a while. However, TTG has several disadvantages. While the donor can quickly make a gift, charities have to wait several weeks to receive the money. 

TTG donations go through a phone carrier and then get passed on to the organization. The contribution shows up on the donor's phone bill, and once the bill gets paid, the donation is sent along to the charity.

How much you can give is also limited in TTG campaigns to a set amount of money (usually quite small). Another disadvantage is that many shared data plans do not allow TTG donations to be processed—an enormous problem as shared plans are very attractive. Your family probably has one.

Nevertheless, many donors like TTG, especially when there is a disaster or when they are at an event. People can act at the moment to respond to dire needs. Text-to-Give works best for large nonprofits that have huge donor bases. In fact, smaller organizations may not clear the threshold for qualifying for this type of giving.

The mGive Foundation is the go-between for charities and phone carriers. If you are interested in TTG, check out the mGive website for information about how to get started.

Text-to-give has become less popular in recent years with nonprofits because of the disadvantages listed above.

Text-to-donate (TTD), however, has become more popular. This method starts with a text, but then the link directs the donor back to a mobile responsive webpage. There, the donor can fill in credit card information or use PayPal-like apps to choose their payment method. This way of donating typically brings in more money per donor because there are no caps. According to Nonprofit Source, the average donation through this method is $107.

Nonprofit Giving Apps

Your nonprofit can have a unique app designed to receive donations, with your branding, logo, and colors. However, mobile apps that only let you donate to one organization can be a hard sell to donors if they are not useful for other things.

They might use it once but then forget about it among the jumble of apps on their phones. Developing an app for a fun or educational purpose is much more useful to donors, such as the Seafood Watch app created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which recommends places to get sustainable seafood. 

Unless you can develop an app that serves another purpose besides giving, you might want to join forces with an existing app such as Charity Miles. People earn money to give to a charity whenever they run, cycle, or walk. You can apply to get on the list of approved charities.

A similar app helps animal shelters. Walk for a Dog facilitates donations from dog lovers just for walking their pets. GiveTide rounds up consumer's credit card charges and gives the change to charities that they can choose. Coin Up also rounds up consumer's loose change and sends it on to registered charities.

Trends in Mobile Giving

Upward Trajectory

Mobile giving has increased every year. When we say "mobile giving," we mean donating on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet instead of a computer. The Blackbaud Institute reports that in 2019, 26% of online donations were made using a mobile device—up from only 9% in 2014. Mobile giving has become a trend with no end in sight.

Mobile Payments Technology

Mobile pay services like Apple Pay and Google Wallet are perhaps the most promising for nonprofit organizations looking to collect donations via mobile devices. But many more are likely to appear.

When using a service like Apple Pay, your donors do not have to enter their payment information or fill out a long, cumbersome form each time they want to give. Paypal also offers convenience, although donors do have to sign into their accounts. Some newer payment methods are also contactless, making them more convenient but also safer.

Mobile point of sale technology opens up new avenues and locations where payments can be made. For charities, that means the ability to take donations during an event, fair, or gala. Meanwhile, biometric authentication involving the face, finger, and even eyes may spell the end of the need for passwords.

Embedding Donations into Social Media

More and more social media platforms have begun allowing purchases or donations right from their pages. Sometimes, links to an organization's webpage are posted, and in other cases, the platform collects the money and disburses it. As a fast-moving technology, embedding social media payments makes it even easier for charities to solicit donations.

These technologies have the potential to make collecting donations much more efficient and comfortable. It is worth exploring how your nonprofit can accept these methods of payment to receive donations.

How to Make Mobile Giving Easy

Minimize all obstacles to donating via a mobile device—the easier it is, the more donations will roll in.

Eliminate long, additional forms, and fine print. Giving via a mobile device should be fast and make the person feel good at that moment—instant gratification for you and the donor.

While online and mobile still only make up a fraction of overall giving, they are fast-growing methods for making donations. According to Blackbaud, in 2019, online giving, which includes mobile use, accounted for 8.7% of overall fundraising. With smartphone users becoming more comfortable with financial transactions via their phones and tablets, online and mobile giving are set to increase dramatically.

Top Mobile Fundraising Platforms

Mobile fundraising has now become part of an overall trend toward digital fundraising, which includes all online channels, from email to texting. Although many digital services for nonprofits exist, you might need more than one to cover all of your needs.

For instance, you'll need a multi-faceted donor management system to maintain your donor database. A mobile contribution platform would likely be an additional service to your basic donor apparatus. Here are a few services that enable donors to give their contributions through their phones.

  • Snowball: This service comes close to full coverage for your mobile needs, with branded donation pages, dedicated phone numbers for mobile giving, and reasonable prices.
  • Qgiv: This platform provides an entire suite of services that include text-to-donate (web-based with no donation limits) and text-to-give (requires an agreement with Mobile Giving Foundation for phone company integration).
  • OneCause: Specializing in special events fundraising, OneCause makes it easy to collect bids, pledges, and donations at galas, auctions, and more. This service provides integrated planning for nonprofits that do a lot of events throughout the year.
  • MyPledger: Well suited to schools and faith-based organizations, MyPledger offers text donating that is not affiliated with a phone company. Thus, donations can be of any size.

The Bottom Line

Mobile giving is here to stay and will only grow as smartphone adoption becomes universal. Charities can add mobile giving to their assortment of fundraising strategies by using text-to-give and text-to-donate services, maximizing social media fundraising, and adopting mobile payment technologies. Charities must leave their assumptions aside, such as older donors don't use smartphones, and fundraising methods of the past will always be effective enough. It's time to move on and become mobile.