December 17, 2017
    Jumping on the mobile bandwagon

    What nonprofits must know first

    By Bob Alves | 06/10/2011

    Think that members and donors aren’t reading e-mails or viewing websites on their mobile devices? Think again. According to a recent Strategy Analytics report, the number of mobile device owners in the US who use their phones to access the Internet has quadrupled over the past four years. Informz reports that mobile readership of e-mail has more than doubled among its nonprofit clients in the past 12 months.

    Organizations need to take advantage of this trend to interact with their communities and stay ahead of the competition. However, before delving into the world of mobile, there are factors to consider. For one, e-mail does not look the same on a mobile device as it does on a computer. The same goes for website content—both will appear differently when viewed on an iPhone, Blackberry or Android.

    Nonprofits should be sure to master e-mail marketing in the mobile world, according to Informz CEO Joe Tyler. To get started, he suggests that organizations create Web versions of their e-mails and encourage mobile users to “click here for the mobile-friendly version.” When the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association did this, the organization discovered nearly 20% of members were reading its newsletter on mobile devices, and clicks increased by 173% in the first e-mail with the new language.

    Tyler also advises to keep messages brief. Typically, about 12-15 lines will fit on a mobile screen, so to not lose readers, make calls to action clear and copy concise. Subject lines and sender’s addresses are the first things readers see, and are big factors in the decisions to open e-mails. Subject lines will be shortened on a mobile device, so keep them short and concise, as well.

    There are several formatting issues to consider to ensure e-mails are readable. Use only one column for the layout. Sidebars and multiple column tables tend to reformat themselves on mobile devices, and cause the other columns to display above or below the main body. Tyler recommends setting the width of e-mails to equal 100% – doing this will allow the Web page to size itself to the width of the screen on which it is being viewed. Also, images do not always format correctly in mobile e-mails. To prevent this, keep the image size less than 480 pixels, and leave plenty of space between links. PC users have the benefit of using a mouse to pinpoint the link they want to click on, but mobile users only have their finger, so make it as easy as possible for them to get to the information. Finally, use a font size greater than 12 pixels to ensure that the copy can be read on all devices.

    Once e-mails have been mobile-optimized, the next step is to ensure websites are mobile-friendly. Simplify the content that appears on the main website and reduce the amount of text and sidebar clutter. Doing this will make it easier for members and donors to browse and complete transactions such as making donations or signing up for newsletters. Organizations also should try to reduce their bandwidth usage and check that the load times for their mobile websites are as fast as possible. To get a smoother mobile experience, avoid Flash, Silverlight and other formats not supported by mobile Web platforms and resample images and compressed graphics. It might also be useful to implement an automatic feature to detect if users log on to the website from mobile browsers vs. Web browsers and display the correct versions. In addition, mobile websites should be compatible with and accessible across all mobile devices and operating systems.

    The mobile Web provides fundraising organizations with an advantage by allowing donors to give directly to them via their smart phones and tablets. For nonprofits thinking of running a text-to-give campaign, there are actually significant benefits to fundraising through mobile-optimized Web pages instead. There is no donation limit amount, nonprofits can capture more donor information, and record it directly into their database systems. Organizations also have greater flexibility when it comes to selecting their own payment gateways, and can provide secure and automatic processing of the gifts. After a donation, be sure to send receipts, thank supporters and brand the mobile-optimized donation pages with tailored content that speaks directly to donors. This will guarantee a smooth transaction experience while improving fundraising performance.

    The majority of members and donors are using their mobile devices to read e-mails and browse websites, and the rest will be joining in soon. While it might take some extra time and resources to get e-mails and websites ready for mobile, it’s important for organizations to stay ahead of this trend. The efforts will be well worth it when associations are able to offer members and donors enhanced experiences.

    Alves is CEO of Advanced Solutions International, Alexandria VA. Details:

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