A recent article in the New York Times Technology section highlighted a struggle that is underway between non profits and Apple over the ban that is in place that restricts charities from using iPhone applications to assist with mobile fundraising. While it’s technically possible to use these apps to facilitate a donation, it’s done by taking a user out of the application itself and redirecting to the non profits website which is a less than ideal user experience and tends to create disengagement.
As anyone that has followed this space knows, mobile giving has grown substantially in recent years, as is evidenced by a few recent unfortunate disasters around the globe where the mobile channel provided an invaluable link between those who needed help and those ready and willing to donate. In the recent Haiti disaster, mobile giving was used to raise a total of $45-$50million. Likewise, in the Gulf Oil Spill crisis, a number of charities used mobile to raise a total of approx $3-$4m to assist with disaster relief efforts.
Combine this with earlier success that charities like United Way, American Cancer Society, Salvation Army and a host of others have had and there’s little question that TEXT2Give has become a powerful took for professional fundraisers when harnessed correctly.
Charitable donations via mobile devices — and especially via mobile apps — present challenges, however, which has led Apple to place a ban on making any kind of donation through charity-based applications on iOS devices. The move has angered many nonprofits who see mobile applications — and especially the iOS platform itself — as a vital tool in collecting funds.
While Apple has been quiet on its decision, the move stems from the fact that processing donations via its payment mechanism would mean the company would have to be in the business of managing and distributing funds and verifying charities, which adds complication and responsibility the company obviously doesn’t want to take on. An Apple spokeswoman, Trudy Muller, declined to explain the rationale completely, saying only; “We are proud to have many applications on our App Store which accept charitable donations via their Websites.”
Organizations like theMonterey Bay Aquarium and the American Cancer Society already have iPhone apps available in the App Store, but none can be used to make gifts. Prospective donors instead are directed out of a nonprofit’s app and to its Website to make donations, which the organizations say makes the process of contributing more cumbersome. For the foreseeable future, we don’t foresee Apple changing their stance appreciably and this just places more importance on using mobile in a more holistic manner.
To be specific, most non profits have become enamored with mobile as a giving instrument. While it has great potential in that area, the enlightened non profits are beginning to appreciate that mobile has a unique ability to establish a relationship with a whole new generation of donors, advocates, supporters and consumers that are passionate about a given cause.
Looking at mobile in this manner means that the brand begins to look carefully at a strategy that seeks to use mobile to forge a relationship that they evolve overtime. A solid mobile program uses text messaging to create specific alert groups that take valued content from the NPO (news, information about the cause or issue, advocacy updates, etc.,) and use that content to begin a relationship with people that have an affinity for your cause.
Over the course of that relationship, efforts are made to gain an identify of this consumer (via an email address or some kind of mobile web based registration) so that the donor/supporter/advocate can be marketed to in a manner that is relevant to them. Likewise, this donor then becomes a part of the database marketing efforts going forward and has the potential to donate more ($$, time, efforts) than they might give via the $5 and $10 microdonations that are a reality in the mobile giving world today.
In this world, SMS, mobile web, applications, QR codes, mobile video, MMS and a host of other mobile technologies work in concert to create a sustainable relationship with a consumer that has an affinity for the cause. Going forward, we believe this is the right model for mobile and we’re seeing many of the non profits that were early leaders in the mobile giving space searching for this kind of strategic model.
For more information don’t forget to check out the NY Times article on this subject:
(Mike Ricci is VP and Mobile Practice Leader at Merkle. Mike has over 20 years of experience orchestrating Olympic sponsorships, architecting sports marketing activation programs and helping companies create successful interactive marketing strategies. In his "free" time, he pens Merkle's Mobile Marketing Blog, the almost daily what's what of the mobile world.)