The G2 on Nonprofit Tech: Mobile Optimization

Dominick Duda
Dominick Duda  |  September 20, 2019

Nonprofit organizations without mobile optimization will be left behind.

Let’s face it. In today’s mobile world, nonprofits struggle to adapt to consumer trends and meet donors where they are, on their phones. That’s a shame since a typical nonprofit depends on individual donors for approximately two-thirds of its revenue. While the total number of individual donations has slightly declined, nonprofit statistics show a broader range of individuals are giving to nonprofits each year. Compared to corporate and foundation giving, individual giving has the largest potential for growth in an organization’s budget forecast, which is why investing in mobile optimization has huge payoff. 

Mobile optimization is no longer optional

Every year, nonprofits continue to maintain outdated solutions that cost them in the long term—in more ways than one. Think of a time when you tried to donate to an organization and found the process more difficult than it needed to be. Multiple pages to click through, slow loading pages, or errors with the payment gateway are all common difficulties. These are consequences of poor website and donation form design that cuts nonprofits’ potential donations every year.

The bottom line? Nonprofits that invest in mobile optimization reap the benefits of increased revenue and donor engagement. The latest data published by the Pew Research Center shows that 81% of Americans own smartphones, a large increase from a meager 35% in 2011. The ubiquitous adoption of mobile devices brings an expectation of sleek and functional mobile experiences. Nonprofits who forgo investment in their mobile presence will be at a disadvantage compared to nonprofits that ensure their donors’ mobile experience is positive.

nonprofits can leverage technology such as mobile optimization to garner more donations

Millennials aren’t the only group to thank for mobile giving’s rise in popularity. Data released by Nonprofits Source shows mobile giving donations have increased 205% in the past year, and 25% of donors complete their donations on mobile devices. Donors across a wide range of demographics are shifting toward this more convenient donation method, so the look and feel of an organization’s donation process is vital. Potential donors are less likely to feel comfortable donating if the website does not translate well to a mobile device. This goes for every page beyond the donation form. Donors should be able to access an organization’s website on their phone and quickly get a sense of who the organization is, what they do, and how to support them. 

All mobile touchpoints a donor has to an organization should be efficient, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. As always, nonprofits should prioritize donors’ experience. When 51% of people visiting nonprofit websites do so on a mobile device (Nonprofits Source, 2019), only focusing on the browser-based web presence leaves nonprofits open to ill-formatted mobile pages that confuse donors. Current fundraising software offers features that integrate customizable donation forms and optimize forms for mobile viewing. 

Example of nonprofit donation page with integrated Apple Pay.Example of nonprofit donation page with integrated Apple Pay. Image courtesy of 9to5Mac.

Fundraising platform Qgiv published data revealing approximately 80% of mobile donations are processed on Apple devices. To keep up, fundraising software will have to feature Apple Pay and Google Pay integrations as a core feature. Integrating with Apple Pay or Google Pay eliminates the need for donors to fill out long forms. This time-saving functionality shows promise in expediting the donation process. The less work donors have to do, the easier it will be to collect donations.

Donors are consumers

While we don’t typically think of nonprofits as businesses, they adopt many business practices to operate smoothly and fulfill their missions. So, like any business, nonprofits are looking to convert as many people into supporters (consumers) as possible. Claire Axelrad of Clairification argues that when donors give money, a nonprofit should “give an intangible ‘feel good’ in return” and that this is the “foundation of the value-for-value exchange upon which all fundraising is based.” It might seem odd to think of donors as consumers, but the psychology behind the purchasing process for donors and consumers looks extremely similar, as shown by the graphic below from Fundraising Report Card.

the process donors go through when considering using technology to donate to a nonprofit

For donors, they must identify that they want to support an organization, conduct their research, and make a donation, and then assess what value that donation added to their lives. The intangible “feel-good” sensation that comes from donating often serves as that value, as well as whatever donor retention activities a nonprofit conducts. With this framework in mind, the need for mobile optimization makes more sense. 

Mobile has revolutionized the way people approach commerce. The ability to purchase seemingly anything from your phone streamlines the value-for-value exchange and fuels immediate gratification. To achieve this, however, a company needs to ensure consumers can quickly navigate their mobile interface to complete an exchange. Consider a time when you’ve made an impulsive purchase that maybe wasn’t necessary. You didn’t even have time to talk yourself out of it because the process was so quick. Mobile exchanges eliminate as many steps as possible to get you from evaluation to purchase.

For nonprofits, a website isn't merely a peripheral asset to an organization; it can be a driving force to entice new donors. While a nonprofit doesn’t use a website to list their "products," they still need to market their brand to an external audience and demonstrate the value. If an organization’s website is messy and difficult to navigate, a donor will linger in the evaluation stage and potentially leave the website before making a gift. Most mobile donation forms also allow donors to save their information for future donations, or can auto-populate key information from their smartphone, which increases the chance of repeat donations. These small details add up to significant dollars over time.

Like traditional consumers, donors are looking for immediate gratification from supporting a good cause. Beyond the website and donation form, mobile optimization also plays a key role in boosting donations made during special fundraising events. Payment processing solutions like Square Reader or PayPal Here plug directly into an iPhone or iPad, process credit card donations in real time, and import data to a donor database all at once. These solutions eliminate the need for staff to manually collect donor information, and make it virtually instantaneous for donors to make a gift. It’s a win-win.

Mobile meets people where they are

Just as the explosion of e-commerce and mobile commerce has allowed companies to target consumers globally, nonprofits now have access to a broad audience through mobile. Look at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or Planned Parenthood. A strong mobile presence allows these organizations to mobilize donors across the globe to support their missions. Additional online giving statistics from Nonprofits Source indicate that 1 in 4 people use mobile devices to discover new nonprofits. Nonprofits realistically cannot meet every donor face to face to raise awareness to their cause, and therefore they must build their mobile presence to attract supporters.

People live on their phones now. It’s important for organizations to meet those people where they are to conduct effective outreach. What’s stopping nonprofits from tapping into their mobile potential? Well, the data also shows that only 3% of nonprofits rate their board and executive leadership as being digitally-savvy. This disconnect between the staff at the top and those at the bottom can make it hard to implement mobile optimization strategies, and as a result the nonprofit’s brand suffers.

While there used to be something endearing about a well-intentioned nonprofit that had an abysmal mobile layout, the times are changing and nonprofits need to get on board quickly. Experts argue over the exact number, but organizations have roughly 10 seconds to capture attention via their website. Nonprofits are already struggling to collect enough individual donations these days; they don’t need poorly built websites and donation forms creating additional barriers.

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Dominick Duda
Author

Dominick Duda

Dominick is G2's research analyst specializing in nonprofit software, with oversight of other vertical technologies. Prior to joining G2, he spent years in the nonprofit sector as an individual fundraiser and grant writer, leveraging millions of public and private dollars for a history museum, a food bank, a clinical and youth services agency, academia, and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups. He brings a unique user perspective to his insight surrounding nonprofit technologies, having used multiple software throughout his career to optimize constituent management and fundraising tasks. He is deeply invested in understanding how nonprofits can make better use of the technology available to them. Dominick's coverage areas include: nonprofit, public safety, public sector, and fitness.