Today we’re going to think outside the box.
I’m going to suggest your nonprofit consider creating an app.
Yes, one of those things people buy at the app store.
Lest you think I’m crazy, this is an idea I’ve been noodling around for some time now.
And I think its time may finally have come!
Okay, maybe not 100%.
But there’s something to be said for the mobile, app-based experience.
Not just for retail giants, but for social benefit causes too.
The idea began to glimmer for me back in 2010 when I was heading up fundraising and marketing for the San Francisco Food Bank. I was at a conference and hanging out with my counterpart from Silicon Valley (she was light years ahead of me when it came to technology savvy). I asked her a question that today I often ask my clients: “What would you do if you received an unexpected grant, and could spend it entirely on development?” Without skipping a beat she said “I’d develop our own app.”
I’ll admit, I barely had a clue what she meant. Troglodyte is my middle name. We got swept into a presentation, and I never had the chance to really find out. But I’ve thought about it more than once since.
A year later I opened my own consulting business and no longer had occasion to ponder creating an app for the charity for which I worked. No one I was working with was really in that head space. So the idea slipped to the recesses of my brain.
Until last week, when I had occasion to listen to a panel discussion: Payments with Purpose: How Better Payments Make People More Charitable. Panelists included Maher Arar, Founder of Cause Square, Robert Opp, Director of Business Innovation and Support at the United Nations World Food Programme, and Michael Faye, GiveDirectly CEO. And, yes, they discussed how the way payment systems are structured significantly impact how much people give.
This should blow your mind.
Because I’ll wager it’s something you’re not paying much attention to; yet the evidence you should be is incontrovertible.
How to structure APPropriate payments in a digital age
Moving forward, how you structure payment systems could have more impact on your bottom line than just about anything else.
Certainly more than all the time you spend tweaking appeal copy, selecting photos and picking fonts and typefaces.
I mean it.
First, there’s the data. Did you know the Girl Scouts actually began selling significantly more cookies when they went to mobile payments? Mobile donations are up, and on a steeply increasing trajectory.
On a personal level, I’ll give you anecdotal evidence (I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth). I used to pay cash at Starbucks. When I went, which wasn’t often. Then I got a Starbucks card and used that. I went a bit more often because It gave me “stars” towards free items. When they enabled mobile payments, I thought that would never be me. Guess what? Full confession: I have the Starbucks app, and I now purchase stuff from them more than ever before because (1) they give me multiple “star dashes;” (2) other online games to play, and (3) free birthday coffee. I know it’s nutty, but… it’s easy, fun and addictive.
On a professional level, I speak from 30 years of in-the-trenches experience. I know development staff (marketing communications and fundraising) give this “systems” stuff short shrift. We tend to focus on creative (art) more than business technology (science). It’s more fun, and we’re apt to get more pats on the back for it. But, what happens if your carefully crafted creative falls completely flat due to the who, what, when, where and how of its delivery? In other words, what if you fill up your cart with tasty, compelling content, but neglect to buy a strong, swift horse to pull the cart?
What happens, at worst, is your really great stuff goes nowhere. At best, it doesn’t go as far as it should.
That’s somewhere between inefficient and disaster.
Putting the cart before the horse happens all the time.
And make no mistake: “Horsepower” in the 21st century is not mammalian. It’s digital.
This is why I talk frequently about the need to integrate fundraising and marketing. Online and offline. Multiple channels. Post digital revolution, such integration is essential.
But that’s a topic unto itself. Let’s get back to your app.
How to APPraise and minimize giving friction
Too much friction in the donation process leads people to leave and give elsewhere.
All of the panelists for “Payments with a Purpose” made the point that nonprofit conversion rates (landing page to donation) are abysmal. People may arrive on your site, but then they don’t complete the transaction. There are numerous reasons:
- Requires too many clicks
- Requires inputting too much information
- Requires navigating to another (unbranded) site
- Doesn’t appear secure
- Takes too much time to complete
- Instructions are difficult to understand
- Doesn’t display and/or work well on mobile devices
I would suggest you check this out for your own website donation landing pages. Do it now. Try making a gift. Try it from multiple devices (desktop; tablet, and iPhone and Android) and browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Explorer). How does it look? How easy is it to follow through?
If it’s super easy, and if you’re super happy, and if your conversion rate beats benchmarks, then you’re good. You needn’t read further.
If you’ve room for improvement, read on.
How to APPrehend human psychology to unlock increased giving
The better you can understand how people think, and what motivates philanthropic action, the more money you can raise.
Here are some insights from players in the mobile giving space (I’m not endorsing any products here. I’m just reporting):
- People like to play. The CEO of Cause Square, which he describes as “a gamified crowdfunding platform”, insists people give more if they’re entertained while doing good. In fact, he claims fundraising increases by as much as 40% when you tap into peoples’ natural inclination to compete, and win, as part of a team. He also notes that average nonprofit conversion rates are 13% (landing page to donation), and these can be raised to 40%. There’s an app that intelligently tracks all in-app activities, and then awards points and badges to optimize the user experience.
- People like to be in control. The CEO of GiveDirectly touts the ease and efficiency of their application. They use mobile payments technology to send donations directly to extremely poor families in the developing world in the most capital efficient way currently possible. The middle man is avoided. People don’t even care about who’s doing the work. Michael Faye reports that 75% of people who donate do no research on the nonprofit. They’re motivated by the ease of getting a quick rush of ‘feel good’ dopamine.
- People, especially Millennials, like instant gratification. The World Food Programme kicked off their “Share the Meal” app in 2015 to aid Syrian refugees. It’s been going gang busters ever since. People can buy the app in the app store (for iOS and Android), download, and then send a meal with just two taps of a finger. It’s particularly popular with Millennials; 18 – 34-year-olds comprise 35% of donor base. They simply tap a bright yellow button; navigate to a page where they pick a basket size (donation amount); enter their credit card information, and… voila! Stymied by the fact that users entering their information for the first time had to navigate away from the site into another browser, Share the Meal recently put in place agreements with both ApplePay and GooglePay – so users now never have to leave the app. This doubled their conversion rate!
Besides the examples above, there are numerous ways companies are entering the nonprofit space, enabling one-tap giving to any charity on their approved list or to a daily featured charity. I haven’t yet seen a lot for individual charities. Right now you’ll mostly find crowdfunding systems and mobile-optimized online donation forms. You should certainly start there! And more app-based activity is likely on the horizon.
We’re also getting close to a new generation of mobile fundraising apps that are sustainable and have long term appeal to donors (think: giving portfolio, gamification, and one-tap, finger scan giving).
How to APProach and acquire donors thru mobile payment systems
Why consider an App or some other form of easy mobile payment?
Currently, 60% of people in North America access their email and social media via mobile. It’s higher in other countries, and will likely reach 80% in North America by 2020.
70% of people donate in the moment.
Grab their attention and make taking action easy or you’ll lose them.
Plus… people are 2.2 times more likely to donate via mobile.
The easier you make it, the more people give.
So you must empower folks to donate wherever they access you.
They’re unlikely to visit you again when they get home.
Fight to remove the friction points.
- Make it easy. Share the Meal takes just two taps. It also allows folks to log in through Facebook (where they can compare their efforts to that of their friends).
- Get to the point. Keep the message brief, and make it about results.
- Keep folks in the app or on your site. Don’t make folks navigate away from your branding and security assurances.
- Make it fun. Both Share the Meal and Cause Square use an aspect of gamification, which stimulates people to multiply their efforts.The process of giving should be fun and uplifting; not onerous and painful. That’s not sustainable.
You don’t need an app, of course. But it certainly has the “cool” factor. And once people download it, they’re apt to use it multiple times. So if you have a cause that lends itself to frequent, small donations it makes sense to consider this.
Which is no doubt why I first heard the idea from a food bank, and I’m now hearing about its execution for a meal program. Because meals are something people keep needing.
What do you do that addresses an evergreen need?
How to APPlaud and retain donors thru payment systems
When you acquire donors through mobile platforms you should engage them that way too.
Because that’s the donor-centered thing to do.
Anyone who has a Millennial family member knows they seldom check their email.
All that donor-centered engagement advice is falling on deaf ears if you’re messaging folks through channels they use infrequently.
Maher Arar of Cause Square says they don’t use email to communicate through their crowdfunding platform. They use mobile notifications. They’ve found mobile communication has an 85-90% open rate vs. 25% for email. Why?
- Because people know it will be brief, and won’t take a lot of their time.
- Because, people rarely dismiss mobile notifications; they play on FOMO (fear of missing out).
- Because people appreciate you’re messaging them through a platform they use, showing that you know them.
Some ideas for mobile engagement:
- Give short feedback.
- Give frequent feedback.
- Show folks impact.
- Video is affordable and powerful.
- Make folks feel they’re part of you.
- Empower folks to fundraise and do the work.
- Encourage folks to connect to their networks to amplify the scope of their engagement and magnify the benefit of their philanthropy.
It’s the 21st century. Time to think outside the box and find new forms of donor engagement.
How about this for an “app” that engages potential supporters? The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) recently rolled out an app called “Send Me” enabling people to request and receive an image of a piece of art sparked by and computer-curated to their description of what they wish to see (e.g., angst; terror; purple). It’s quite addictive! If they went a step further and made it easier for me to share my results with my friends, that would be even better.
The APPreciable challenges
There are reasons the world has not been flooded with nonprofit donation apps since I first heard the idea back in 2010. You can read about them here. In a nutshell: It’s expensive, time-consuming and the major players at Apple and Google haven’t been as cooperative as they could be.
But past history is no indication of future performance.
Inroads are being made, and this is a topic about which you should at least be aware.
If it doesn’t yet make sense yet to spend the time and resources to develop a donation app, you might consider an engagement app like the one created by SFMOMA or the Salvation Army. Or a gamification app like iPheedANeed for the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. Or a helpful app like the YMCA Finder.
If you do want to explore further, here’s a list of nonprofit app developers.
I’m being deliberately provocative with the suggestion you consider building a donation app. But I’m not really kidding.
One thing there’s no getting away from: mobile is the largest communication platform for the near future.
Be there, or be square.
If anyone is using mobile apps, or other mobile applications like text-to-give or crowd funding, please share what’s working/not working in the comments below!
Don’t forget: The Nonprofit Leadership Summit is coming in just three weeks. I’ll be talking about leading the way to integrate nonprofit marketing and fundraising. There will be at least 10 different speakers over the course of three days. It’s all online, it will be recorded, and all the materials are yours to keep. If you’re interested, be sure to enter in my coupon code to get an awesome $300 discount: clairity clickit.