What Nonprofits Need to Know About Mobile Fundraising

Getting donors engaged through social media.
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You know that mobile fundraising is on the rise. In fact, a survey found that mobile giving has increased 80 percent since 2013 and that 18 percent of donors say they have given with their mobile devices. That number cuts across generations as well. While younger donors are more likely to give via mobile, older donors have upped their mobile game as well.

Don't let another end of year giving season find your nonprofit coming up short on mobile fundraising. 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 – social media, email, events – to reach your potential supporters. 

How Mobile Giving Can Fit Into Your Year-End Fundraising Strategy

There are several reasons your nonprofit should include mobile giving technologies into your year-end 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. Pew Internet reports that almost two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and that 19% of Americans rely on a smartphone for transactions, information, news and to find resources.

The second reason to adopt mobile giving technologies is that more people access the Internet via mobile devices than through their desktops and laptops. If you have an online donation page or conduct any online fundraising campaign (including email), you need to become mobile-savvy. You know that your organization needs to get itself mobile-ready before year-end. But how can you get ready? Here are five 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) for viewing on a mobile device.

Check All Your Online Communication Channels

Scrutinize your website, donation page, social media platforms, and email newsletter to make sure 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 will be the biggest barrier to completing a donation on a tablet or phone.

That's why many people finish their donation on their desktop or laptop computers. In any case, it still pays to make that donation page as comfortable as possible. Pick a mobile method that works for your organization. The most common ways that donors give money via their mobile devices are listed below.


The most well-known mobile donation method is “text-to-give” (TTG). Think of the 2010 international TTG campaign to help Haiti after that country’s horrific earthquake. That campaign went viral, and the American Red Cross collected $43 million simply via text donations. They still accept donations via this method:

Using TTG is probably the most familiar way to collect mobile donations since it has been around for a while. But, 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.

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, and read the Foundation’s valuable research about text giving.

Text Pledges

With “text pledges,” the donor texts a number provided by your nonprofit and receives a link to a particular landing page that includes a mobile-optimized giving form. They complete the form, donating an amount that they choose, and you can thank them at the moment of giving with an automatically generated message.

Giving in this way only works if the mobile giving form is easy to see and use. Donors will click away from a form that is too clunky and long. One example of this type of mobile giving: The annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party jazzed up their donation process with an on-site giving opportunity. Guests pledged via text message.

A live feed then broadcast the pledge to the entire audience. Donors chose the amount they wanted to give and decided to be recognized by their peers at the gala or not. An immediate social giving opportunity like this works because of the power of peer-to-peer influence.

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 Google’s One Today app. This app, now available both in iOS and Android, allows users to donate $1 every day to selected causes and organizations. Apps like this have become quite popular, especially among millennial donors.

Mobile Pay

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

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.

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 year-end gifts.

Donate via Mobile to See How the Process Works

If you aren’t sure which method is right for your organization, or if you are curious about the process, make a small donation to the nonprofit of your choice via your mobile device. You may be surprised at how easy it is.

Make Things Seamless and 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 giving and mobile giving are currently only a small fraction of overall giving, they are the fastest growing methods for making donations. Also, giving through social media, while in its infancy, will likely open up even more ways for donors to give to your organization.

Most notably, Facebook has opened up ways for their users to give to charitable causes right inside the Facebook app, and even to run individual fundraising campaigns for their favorite causes. Learn about these new approaches and how you can help your supporters use them.

With smartphone users becoming more comfortable with financial transactions via their phones and tablets, mobile giving is set to increase dramatically. There are no more excuses – your supporters are ready to give via mobile. Are you willing and able to accept?