The Rise of Mobile Giving
I hope you enjoyed my last article “How Does My Online Donation Page Look? = The Wrong Question.” For those of you who missed it, let me provide this disclaimer: I lead an online fundraising company, so my perspective is very pro-digital. But it’s also informed by 10 years of Internet fundraising experience, so I hope it will be of some value to you. I’m fortunate to observe hundreds of online fundraising organizations from all over the world, but primarily in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and the E.U.
Now to today’s topic. As you read this article, consider that the world’s population will be approximately 6.8 billion people by the end of 2009. We believe that in that population, just more than 25 percent are Internet users or, in other words, 1.7 billion Internet users. Internet usage is highest in North America where we believe more than 74 percent of people are Internet users. That is a lot, right? Not when compared to mobile!
Global mobile statistics make Internet statistics look meager by comparison. Mobile subscriptions across the globe are expected to reach 4.6 billion by the end of this year, and mobile broadband subscriptions are estimated to top 600 million in 2009, having overtaken fixed broadband subscribers last year.
We’re starting to see several distinct flavors of mobile-giving strategies. The most common so far has been the “premium SMS” method. Popularized in the U.K. and Europe, these fundraising campaigns ask potential donors to send an SMS text message to a specific number. Advantages of this approach: It is extremely fast and easy, and works on most types of mobile devices that are SMS-ready. Challenges: Donation amounts are typically small ($5), and money is collected via cell phone bills. In the U.K., phone carriers often take a very large portion of the donation, sometimes up to 50 percent.
In the U.S., the Mobile Giving Foundation has negotiated with mobile phone companies and, as a result, directs most, if not all, of the donation dollars to the intended charitable cause. Last year, the Mobile Giving Foundation enabled nearly 150 nonprofits to raise more than $400,000 across all campaigns using a $5 price point, and forecasts 2009 numbers to be significantly higher.
Another and distinct approach to mobile donations leverages the explosion of smartphones. During the last reported period (July through September 2009), 43.3 million smartphones shipped worldwide, up 4.2 percent from 41.5 million in the same period a year ago, and up 3.2 percent from shipments of 41.9 million in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report. Smartphone shipments soon will out-pace laptop shipments in some markets.
Clearly more and more of us are walking around with devices capable of mobile browsing, like Blackberries and iPhones. We’re reading our e-mail on our smartphones and learning to use our mobile browsers like mini-computers. Some leading-edge fundraisers are paying attention to this trend and are beginning to mobile-enable their secure donation forms, allowing donors to make credit card donations without ever needing to leave their favorite “crack-berry” device.
So this holiday season, keep your eyes open for more and more successful mobile-donation campaigns, both the premium SMS type and the smartphone type, and consider testing mobile donations for your organization.
If you are enjoying this content, I invite you to search for my Digital Fundraising Podcast on iTunes and listen to interviews with rock stars in the world of digital fundraising. Also, if you have any thoughts or comments, I’d love to read them at firstname.lastname@example.org
(On a personal note: This past Halloween I turned 40. That makes me two days younger than the Internet.)
International Telecommunication Union
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report.
Philip King is president and CEO of Artez Interactive.