fundraising, mobile advocacy, Mobile Fundraising

Mobile Advocacy and Fundraising: Live Blogging 2009 NTC

1 Comment 28 April 2009

image by KhE

image by KhE

I’m at NTEN’s 2009 National Technology Conference. I’ll be live blogging this session on Mobile Advocacy and Fundraising. I’m starting now.

Session presenter: Matt Wilson from Mobile Commons.

Now 250 million active phones in US (in context of a little over 300 million people in US now!)

Technology is changing voice advocacy.
Example: AFSCME Union

1. Builds an email list.

2. Asks them to make a phone call through an email ask.

3. Submit mobile phone number, email and zip code on a form, and an automated phone call is sent to a legislator. How does this happen: An API code snipped sends a call to an automated voice through mCommons – redirects the call to their legislator.

Example 2: Human Rights Campaign

1. HRC sends a text action alert.

2. Asks them to dial a number. Hear a recording with audio talking points and

3. Auto-routes to legislator.

Participation industry standards:

1. Email requests return 8 to 20% online advocacy action.

2. But with mobile SMS, we see 20% response rate within 20 minutes, and 40 – 50% response rate within 24 hours.

Example 3: Planned Parenthood

1. Asked people to input a mobile cell number as soon as the Global Gag Rule was overtuned.

2.People received text messages that it was overturned. Individuals were asked to text back thank-you messages to Obama. 500 people replied back with a thank you within 20 minutes. Averaged out to 20% reply rate.


– got people used to acting differently: use mobile text for the organization

-captured mobile cell numbers for the organization

Question: what should be the length of broadcast text message to individuals?

Limit is 160 characters. The simpler, shorter and quicker the call to action the better.
Question: What is basic set up cost for Mobile Advocacy?

Some vendors will price per text – about $.10 per text message plus setup fee. Other will offer ongoing monthly fees plus setup fee. Rule is about $.10 per outgoing message for simple solutions.

Question: Are campaigns targeted differently for those people with smartphones or iPhones?

Haven’t really seen this yet. Not sure what we would learn yet from this type of segmentation, and don’t have enough info yet.

Question about worldwide customers.

mCommons only works with US customers at this time.

image courtesy of mGiving

image courtesy of mGiving

State of Mobile Fundraising

1. Mobile Giving Foundation: ability to bill $5 increments to constiuents’ wireless bills.

2. Email acquisition. Acquire emails at live events.

3. Integrated campaigns.

Can we increase lift on online and direct mail campaign with text to reinforce donation is a big questions.

Ask people to text to pledge or fulfill plecges online. Send them to online pages is an idea.

Mobile Giving Foundation

Any 501(c)3 can apply to be a provider. One approved, can ask constituents to send $5 donations to their wireless bills on behalf of the organization. Mobile Giving Fdn distributes funds within 60 to 90 days. Wireless carriers pass thorugh entire donation. Vendors have different pricing models.

Question: Do nonprofits get all the giving info from the constituents at the end of the transaction with add-on requests at end of text giving? No. Problem is that nonprofits can’t get that info. The one exception is that once you get a list of email  ????

Case Study: by Watershed Strategic Consultants. Jenn Smith, presenter.

Think back to last fall and the economy taking a dive. Tried partnering with the Humane Society of the US to try something different. At the time HSUS had a 12,000 phone list. Urged 12,000 to give via phone on December 30th as last-chance push for year-end giving. A “hey, give now, tax deductible, do it now” type message.

Send “Last chance email” December 26. Sent last chance email again Dec. 29. Send text to give December 30th. Everyone got anothe last chance email on the 31st.

The Plan:

1. Partnered with a telemarketing firm to set up an inbound call center to accept donations.

2. Set up an internal donation form telemarketing reps could complete donations while taking calls.

3. Suppress donors on mobile list. If gave in December, didn’t use their numbers for the mobile campaign.

4. Created a control group of people who did not receive text message.

Text message they’d received: “HUMANE: 24 hrs to make your tax-deductibel gift for animals. Call 800-680-8313 from 11-8 EST or reply “CALL” now to give to the Humane Society.”

What happened?


However, a few people made some test donations who were already on the team.

Silver lining: control group who didn’t get text message.

BUT the people who got text message AND then last chance to give Dec. 31st email to give donated .55%, which is higher than average for email solicitations.

People who did not get text but only email asks donated .31%

Increase in fundraising was .77%.


Year end using text messages to boost email response is good. Control groups can save the day. Keep testing. Must build mobile strategies inot campaigns.

What went wrong with original campaign?

Not sure but thoughts are:

1. Mobile is a a cultivated file. Takes time for people to get used to it.

2. Mobile file had not been asked to enage that frequently.

3. Perhaps issue with timing, people on vacation then.

What has changed for Watershed’s clients?

1. Creating unique strategies per channel, not just replicating them onto each channel. So, if you want to grow a mobile program you have to build a list same as how you built your email list, and think about it as a new channel that need new strategies.

2. Off mobile promotions are still important for mobile complementaries.(Flyers, signs, other platforms, etc.)

Question: how about opt-out?
Answer: every text message has a click to opt out message, within the 160-character limit.

Question: how do people know the number really does lead to a credible organization, or is the Humane Society that texted them?

Answer: technically, with a mobile short code people couldn’t do that. But, there are issues with people’s comfort with mobile that this speaks to. Always have the same handle for text message starts such as HUMANE and all broadcast messages come from the organization with the same short code telephone number. Frequency is also important – if people sign up for a text message then send them one soon enough so that they don’t forget.

Another example: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hate crimes advocacy campaign.

1. Ask people to take action.

2. Send them to a Mobile Commons page to enter cell, zip, click “connect me” and they get to talk to a legislator. Primary goal was to get people to call in.

3. Then ask them to opt in to mobile list.

4. Facebook app to enter mobile phone number to act now against hate crimes. (integration)

The future:

Increase partnerships with Mobile Commons. Think beyond email. More testing with clients. More work with Mobile Giving Foundation.


Next presenter: Grace Markarian, from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Mobile Program:

Launched in 2007. Grew list slowly. Initally for Canadian anti-seal slaughter campaign.

Use Mobile Commons now. Their program lives within their Online Communications team. About 17,500 subscribers on list.

Use mobile channel to complement other channels. Try not to bother people unless it is urgent or fun. Also “get out the vote” actions.

In-house: daily 9-minute meetings with entire External Affairs team for updates on integrated campaigns.

How we offer signups:

part of every campaign.

send welcome email after people sign up for HSUS to ask for mobile cell number.

Facebook signup and donation app.

Future mobile plans:

Twiter bundling, aggressive recruitment through email, incorporate with print media, billboards, etc.

Real campaign: Save the Canadian Seals from HSUS

1. while people are watching and documenting the seal slaughter, they text to people about what they are watching.

2. People on list are affected by these texts and reply to Grace about it, so it works to raise awareness

3. Ask people to reply back and begin conversations.

4. If peole respond to text, then they get anautomated reply to act on anothe platform (website page). This was a lesson learned from being innundated by reply texts.

Question: how really engage with mobile text and reply to them? (my question)

Answer: I have a mobile commons inbox where it is aggregated and I can reply to their quesitons. Also, people can go to a site or a page where they can begin discussion on a non-mobile site.

Other thoughts from Grace at HSUS: people do seem to notice paper flyers and information and act mobilely.

HSUS Learning Curve:

State of the art tools change quickly.

Developing niche content can be challenging.

Database integration is hard.

Could be a full-time job!”This is email and web all over again!”

Before you start a mobile program:

1. Research audience, peers, database integration

2. Figure out goals: reach existing members on a new channel? Reach new members? Send content? Etc.

3. Sketch a plan for mobile recruitment and your first campaign.

4. Get “buy in” from the top of the organization.

5. Think about how you will integrate with all your online communications.

6. Identify core staff who will be responsible, and time they will allocate to this.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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