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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How to tap the fundraising power of technology without breaking the bank

Charity Navigator is excited to present this guest blog post from an expert in our community. To submit your ideas as a guest blogger, please contact Sara Nason at snason@charitynavigator.org

By Melissa Bodford & Kaitlin Reimann, co-founders of uBack


Technology is overwhelming. No doubt about it.

It changes constantly and poses very real threats that you can’t even see.

But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it – or even keep it at a distance. For a nonprofit operating in the digital age, technology represents an unprecedented opportunity.

At uBack, we saw the writing on the wall two years ago. Back then, we were just a couple of philanthropically inclined corporate executives who recognized how archaic the donation process seemed compared to the ease of shopping online. Why couldn’t we donate the very moment we had the urge to, no matter where we were? And if we were frustrated, how must all the other donors out there feel?

In a word, disengaged.

Let us explain: People want to give, perhaps more now than ever. Charitable giving grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to the Giving USA annual report. Millennials – the nation’s largest living generation—are perhaps the biggest source of that increase: in 2014 alone, 84% of millennials made a charitable donation, and 70% spent at least an hour volunteering.
At the same time, 47 percent of donation attempts are abandoned because the process is too complicated or cumbersome, according to Nomensa. People are easily distracted these days; if making a donation takes longer than it should, you stand a good chance of losing a donor.

Most organizations have accepted that they need a website and social media accounts to survive. But here’s the catch: Having a website – even a streamlined, user-friendly one—isn’t enough to compete with short attention spans and impulse-driven donations. A Stanford researcher once told us the urge to give lasts just 8 seconds, then it’s gone. That means nonprofits have to be right there with the donor the moment the urge hits.
There’s only one thing we have with us all day, every day: our mobile devices.
It’s sad but so very true. Consumers in the U.S. now spend five hours a day on mobile devices, and they are using that time to spend money. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, shoppers in the U.S. spent $2.4 billion on their phones or tablets. And in 2016, nearly 17 percent of online donations were made on a mobile device.
And it’s not just millennials; 42 percent of people 65 and older own a smart phone.
The good news for nonprofits? There are ways to embrace mobile and the opportunities it presents without spending a small fortune.

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly: As of October 2016, mobile web usage overtook desktop use for the first time ever. So chances are good your donors will visit your site from their devices at some point. You want to make the experience is easy, with a website that is simple to navigate no matter how visitors get there.
Another good practice: Add a donate button to your website in a spot that makes it one of the first things someone sees when they come to your site. There’s no need to be subtle. Most people will come to your site looking to donate, and the longer they have to hunt around for a place to give, the more likely you are to lose them.

Get social: Like technology, social media is one of those things your organization can’t afford to ignore. Nearly 80 percent of all social media time is spent on mobile, so harness that. Tell your organization’s story on social media with photos, videos and thought-provoking blog posts, and include links back to your donation page. That way, when inspiration strikes, donors have a place to go to make a difference.
Also, don’t shy away from asking for small sums of money -- $10, $20, $50. Take a page from the Bernie Sanders campaign: When he won the New Hampshire primary in 2016, he issued a call to supporters to donate whatever they could. Less than 48 hours later, he’d raised $8 million.

Consider a donation platform: You don’t need your own app to raise money via mobile. Those are expensive and time-consuming to build—we know; we built one ourselves. So take advantage of the technological resources that are already out there. Many (including ours) are free for nonprofits to use, and they can help broaden your reach and tap into the next generation of donors—the people who will support your cause for decades to come.
When considering a partner to facilitate your mobile donation experience, make sure you take into account cost (if any), the extent of services provided and the potential for enhanced insights into your donor base. The more you learn about the donors you reach via mobile, the more you can tailor your giving campaigns to keep them engaged.
Your organization is out to change the world. We get that, and we know money’s always tight. But technology is vital in the modern nonprofit world, and you can tap its power without breaking the bank.  


Editor's Note: The Charity Navigator mobile apps are available for iPhone and Android in the App Store. Charity Navigator's API provides information to your company or organization about the 1.6 million charities in the United States. If interested in using our API, please email us at api@charitynavigator.org.

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