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    August 26, 2008

    Mobileization: Part II

    I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but I have these "light bulb" moments when I start to realize that something has turned from a mini fad into a bonified trend and even massive lifestyle change.

    This happened to me with iPods a few years back. It's not unusual to see people around Washington D.C. with some kind of cord behind their ears; most of the time I just assume they are secret service. I had been noticing a lot of secret service type people on the metro for a few weeks, all with white cords coming from somewher in their pocket or bag to their ears. And then one day it dawned on me-all these people aren't secret service! They are all people with iPods and those distinct white headphones! Suddenly, those white iPod cords were everywhere! Young, old, casual, business suit, they were all accessorized with those white cords.

    Something similar happened with mobile phone, but way farther back than the iPod. When I got my first cell phone when I was 16, I was really one of the few people I knew who had one-courtesy of my mother who wanted to know where her car driving teenager was at any given second of the day.

    Now, I think I am one of the last people I know who still has a cell phone that has only 3 main functions in my life: actually calling people, text messaging people, and the alarm clock.

    Mobile is a convergent technology: phones long ago stopped being just for calling for most people-they are now web browsers, email checkers, calendar updaters, TV screens, and in many countries, bill-payers, money transferers, ticket purchasers, and dog walkers (just kidding about that last part).

    The reason I point out all this is that mobile has gone beyond cell phones to an entire lifestyle platform, and if anything, it is evolving to include more of, not less of, the things we do on a daily basis, like pay bills, browse the web, watch TV. What mobile has added to this mix is it has untethered us from having to be in a particular place at a particular time to do all this-now we can do all these things on the go.

    Why do I think this is so relevant for fundraising and for Gen Y? Because if people are going to be browsing the web on their phone, checking their emails on their phone, paying their bills with their phone, it is only natural that they are going to want to hear from us and be able to interact with us on their phones. And we are hugely unprepared for this.

    And while I think most of us would agree that Gen Yers are already there, I think we shouldn't hide our heads in the sand about the reality of what has already happened-almost everyone else we as marketers prefer to talk to other than Gen Y, is already there also, or very close.

    A recent article in Newsweek, "Last American (Wireless) Virgin", notes that 1 in 7 American apparently still lack cell phones. And who are these 1 in 7? Children, elderly, and people who have bad credit (mobile companies are solving problem 3 with prepaid phones-no credit required). They are coming up with neat stuff to get mobile phones to seniors too-less cluttered phones, easy to use, etc.

    And to be honest, I think that for seniors, our most beloved donors, mobile phones are going to be much easier to adopt than the web-after all, most phones still do have SOME resemblance to a normal phone a technology they are already familiar with-the good ole landline.

    Case in point, my grandfather, who moved to this country when he was over 60, reads every single piece of DM he gets from us, dutifully gives to almost every organization that contacts him, and still think the Internet is something one literally goes "into", has, after some trial an error, learned how to use the cell phone the family made him get to call my ailing grandmother when he is at the pharmacy or the grocery store.

    In fact, according to an article in The Economist, airlines are so confident consumers, which I would assume include seniors, can deal with a paperless world, the only version of paper tickets they are considering keeping would be "contactless plastic cards." If grandma and grandpa can figure out how to get on an airplane in a paperless world, just imagine all the fundraising possibilities?

    So this is what is keeping me up at night-if I still can't get my donation processor to accept PayPal donations, how in the world am I going to figure out how to turn a text messaged "yes, I want to give $20" into a donation that is linked to someone's account? How do I even send out those messages? Maybe I'll text message one of my friends working for one of those fancy shmancy ISPs and see if they have any answers..


    Sarah said...

    Hi Miriam- I use to work for the Red Cross in fundraising communication. The Red Cross has a text message program with the Wireless Foundation called Text2Help. It is implemented in major disasters and you can text $5 donations to the Disaster Relief Fund. Due to a special arrangement, the donations don't have any fees taken out of them.

    I think two things are stopping the widespread adoption of text donations. First, most people still don't text in America except for Gen Y, which non-profits don't see as a target demographic. The 2nd reason is the fees are not worth it to most non-profits, especially since texting would be essentially a test program. Companies like mGive offer the service, but the fees are a hefty 10% plus additional monthly fees. An online donation directly to a non-profit only costs 2-5% in credit card fees and admin cost associated with the system.

    chris m. said...

    Sarah, my company, Mobile Commons works with quite a few non-profits and many of them have build large lists that spread far beyond Generation Y. In fact, some of our first customer's constituencies were in the 50+ age range.

    I think the key is smart mobile strategy. For example, most people are comfortable with the idea of SMS alerts, but not with composing an SMS. So instead, you can initiate the interaction on the web or through a phone call.

    As for the cost of mobile fundraising: it's coming down. Mobile Commons pricing for Mobile Fundraising is more inline with traditional online fundraising (and we tie in to a number of eCRM systems to make data sharing easier).

    Miriam Kagan said...

    Thanks Chris and Sarah-great input! Chris, I checked out your company/blog-love it. Going to add it to my blog roll!

    chris m. said...

    Miriam, thanks for adding us to your blogroll. I guess that means we need to keep publishing good things about mobile.

    Next time you're up in New York, definitely drop us a line, we'd love to show you some of the wonderful things we've got in development.

    Also, have you ever used Disqus for your blog comments? It's a nice way for commenters to get notifications when people respond and to display threaded comments. We'll hopefully be adding it to the Mobile Commons blog in the near future.

    Miriam Kagan said...

    No I haven't even heard of it! Will check it out. Shoot me an email so we can coordinate if I am ever in NYC-would love to check out what you guys are doing.