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Reaching the mobile donor

January 23, 2012

In an article entitled “Real Time Charitable Giving“, January 12, 2012, Aaron Smith reported on the findings of a study conducted following the Haiti earthquake. The Pew Internet & American Life Project looked at the demographics of Americans who donated by text message in the months following the disaster. Approximately $43 million was donated to Haiti relief efforts by individuals through this method, which shows text donations can now be a significant means of raising funds. The Haiti earthquake was the first time text donations had played such a major role and the Pew study found some important characteristics of these donors that nonprofits should keep in mind:

  • the majority of the donors were white, college graduates, female;
  • the majority were aged 18 – 49 with incomes between $30,00 and $74,999;
  • most of the donations were impulse based, upon seeing or hearing news (whereas most online donations are made after the donor has done significant research);
  • 3/4 of these donors were 1st time mobile givers;
  • over half have since made other disaster relief donations;
  • just under half (especially of the younger donors) encouraged friends and family to also donate;
  • this group tended to spread the word amongst friends and family by personal contact as opposed to by texting or emailing to them;
  • these donors preferred to make their donations (in descending order) by text, online, mail or in person. Only 6% made donations by telephone; and
  • these donors were tech savvy but otherwise they tended to have similar profiles as the general population when it comes to charitable giving and their knowledge of current events.

Clearly, nonprofits have to mobilize themselves to reach technologically savvy donors. They need to know how to :

  • capture their attention and desire to contribute, especially in the non-disaster scenarios;
  • inspire them to action which includes making it quick and easy for them to donate;
  • motivate them to help spread the nonprofit’s message to their friends and family; and
  • keep these impulse donors as supporters in the future.

Assuming the results of the US study apply equally in Canada, these are significant challenges but the ability to tap into this mobile donor base will become more important as our world continues its inexorable march along the virtual path.

The Pew Internet Project, was done in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the mGive Foundation, and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Pew Internet & American Life Project is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world.

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