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    May 2, 2009

    Lessons from Mobile Tech For Social Change on using Mobile for Fundraising

    As promised, below is a summary of some key takeaways and lessons from Mobile Tech for Social Change.

    A fundamental emphasized by many at the meeting, and something that many of us in the nonprofit world already know innately--mission first, tactics later: first, focus on your mission--who are the people you are trying to reach out to/help and how are you trying to help them? Where are they and how will you reach them? Remember, that just like phone, email, paper, mobile is just a tool, so figure out whether it fits into your toolset.

    For those at the meeting who were more focused on the actual social change than fundraising to help people achieve that change, mobile raises questions like fees with local carriers, barriers and bad guys trying to block texting, and amazing applications like turning laptops into little SMS stations that spread messages in remote areas with no cell phone receptions: "refugee camp out of band aids. Need more."

    For those of us in the business of raising the dollars, one big barrier stands in the way. In order to get cash and other info from people using mobile, and engage with them in a long-term relationship, you need to get the word out there about your mobile program and build your lists.

    So how to do this? I attended a session on this led by Jeff Lee, president of Distributive Networks, one of the service providers that helps nonprofits get into the mobile game. Distributive Networks was used by the Obama campaign for their texting needs, and Jeff shared some key lessons and tactics learned on building Mobile lists.

    1) First, once you've acquired a shortcode, put it on every other piece of marketing collateral and call to action you have. Get the word out there, including DM. One great way to engage people in texting via DM may be to ask them to text answers to survey questions.

    2) Incentives go a long way to getting people to text in a response. If I text you, will I be part of a special VIP group? (like say on a list to find out a VP pick). Something donors see as of value works great as well--in another session someone gave the example of an animal welfare nonprofit encouraging people to text a shortcode to get tips on pet care.

    3) The more "actionable" a call to action is, the better. I.E. give people some reason to text you, not just the goodness of their hearts, and they are more likely to do so, even if it just to let you know their thoughts on a topic. This allows you to start building a relationship with them.

    4) Remember that mobile is a tool to learn about donors just as any other method is so don't make it one shortcode fits all. Create separate keywords for donors to text depending on a topic they are most interested in. Let's say you are a human welfare organization. Ask donors to tell you which issues most concern them--food, shelter, education, and this then lets you tailor your future communications to these donors. The learning is invaluable.

    So how are people using mobile SMS successfully? Here is a great example of how one human right organization is using mobile, in combination with other DR efforts, to increase donors engagement and giving:
    • One organization matched it's mobile list to it's email list. For those donors that matched both, they did an A/B split--some donors only received an email, while others received an email and a text about the email, encouraging donors to open, read it, and take action. The impact? An over 70% increase in response for those donors that received the text and email combination vs. those who just got the email.

    There were loads of other great ideas and examples--the guys at Mobile Commons are doing some neat stuff with encouraging social action viral through texting and connecting texting with actual phone calls. This is great for those of you trying to do things like getting your donors and activists to call their congresspeople.

    Thanks again to the organizers!

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