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December 2010

Yes, another "favorite" list from 2010--but ours is THE BEST list of course

What would an end-of year blog post be if it did not include some sort of list? And so, we bring you a list that while relatively abridged (we only have 4 items to share with you), is great food for thought as we close out this year and start to think about what the new year will hold for the nonprofit world.

Our list is some of our favorite videos from 2010 (they were not necessarily all made in 2010, but ones that we stumbled upon last year) that most inspired and moved us, and also, embodied some of the best practices from nonprofit marketing and branding. So, in no particular order:

  • If this video doesn't tear at your heartstrings in every right way, what would?


(Also view the video here)


  • Who says celebrities and human don't get the right message across?  We first saw this in an New York Times article and the video made our stomachs hurt from laughing!

(Also view the video here)



(Also view the video here)


And finally, while not in the "neat nonprofit" video category, this animated lecture was shared with us by one of our blog readers and is an interesting listen to a philosopher's thoughts on the cultural capitalism and giving. (Plus, it has great animation!)


(Also view the video here)


So happy holidays to all our readers and a big THANK YOU from the Merkle blogging crew for all your great thoughts, comments, and ideas throughout the year.

-DonorPower Blog team

Nonprofits Vs. Apple and the iPhone

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.

ARC apps 

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

(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.)

My hot chocolate is saving the rainforest!

A few weeks ago, there was a mix up at my doctor's office and turned out my appointment was an hour after I had turned up. So I decided to pass the time at a nearby Starbucks.

As I stood in line waiting to order my hot chocolate, I was, as most people anywhere near my age do, checking my Facebook account from my phone.  Facebook has recently added the "places" functionality (in addition to the millions of other changes it has gone through in the last year), and I thought I'd try it out.

I was about to "check-in" when I noticed that there was an "offer" associated with this check-in.  If I checked-in at that specific Starbucks, $1 would be donated to help protect the rainforests. Now, I am sure that Starbucks did not know about my obsession with saving the planet, but boy oh boy was I excited! My doing something so mundane--buying a hot chocolate--something I was planning on doing ANYWAY, was also resulting in something good! Granted, $1 isn't going to save the forests, but, what if everyone who was there did the same thing?  Just imagine the acres and acres that could be protected! My mind was spinning with excitement.

Of course, I "shared" my check in with my Facebook community: maybe my friends who were visiting other Starbucks would see the deal and check-in too.

A few weeks later, I found myself at REI with a friend who was looking for a new winter coat. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "REI is a company known for its 'do-gooding', I wonder if they have a deal similar to Starbucks?" Well, lo and behold, (and maybe because it was Black Friday), REI did have a deal going: by checking-in, $10 was donated for clean up of waterways.

The moral of the story: prior to the historic hot chocolate day, I had reservations about using geolocation services that are increasingly ubiquitous on social platforms. Concerns over privacy, people knowing where I was, safety, all seemed not worth it.

But now, checking-in almost seems like a part of my civic duty. If I am going to be somewhere or doing something and by checking-in I have the opportunity to do something good, how can I not do it? 

I am going to start keeping an eye on businesses and brands that have do-gooding offers.  I am going to keep an eye out for announcements from my favorite charities to see whether they might be the beneficieries of any such offers. Because, who knows, one day, my addiction to hot chocolate COULD save the rainforest! (Hint: is YOUR organization taking advantage of the hot chocolate-drinking masses?) 

-Miriam Kagan

Strategy Director (follow Miriam on Twitter, @MiriamKagan)


What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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