Archive | September, 2013

QR codes and nonprofits: Good or bad idea? (Hint: Good.)

25 Sep

good bad qr code

In the last few days, I have encountered a spate of so-called nonprofit experts saying that QR codes are a bad idea for nonprofits. One went so far as to say that she would not include them in her book because they don’t work. That’s a sweeping statement and obviously there’s more that needs to be explained. What exactly doesn’t work? Or are the experts wrong and QR codes are a good idea? From my point-of-view, having seen the results firsthand and knowing what they can do and what they’re meant to do, my answer is QR codes are a good idea for nonprofits.

Let’s dissect the arguments one-by one.

You have to download a QR code reader and you need a smartphone

This one’s really a puzzling argument since 140 million people  in the US have a smartphone per an August 2013 report from Comscore. There have been billions of apps downloaded to smartphones so the notion that smartphones are not prevalent and growing, and that downloading an app is somehow a foreign experience is an argument not supported by the data and the trends.

QR codes are supposed to be bad news for nonprofits because only a small portion of people scan them

Citing a report from 2011, (2011?-really! Mobile moves so fast that you really should cite current data. Blackberry probably thought they could survive back then. Now look at them.) only 6.2% of mobile device users have scanned a QR code.


Look at this graph from ScanLife and see the growth from 2011 to now. ScanLife also reported in the same report that this graph is from that 4 million people scanned a QR code for the first time in Q2/2013. This, they said, represents 22% growth from a year ago.

I’d hardly call these numbers small and certainly they are growing and once again the data refutes the “expert”.

QR code placement has been poor

Of course they have to be placed in locations with cell coverage and of course putting them on moving objects is a bad idea but is this the fault of the technology or the person using it? A recent report from NellyMoser suggests that QR codes in magazines have a better response rate than other forms of direct mail. Now I know most nonprofits can’t afford to put ads in magazines but this does point to the use of QR codes raising the odds of engagement. Especially since most of the scans are being done by the demographics many nonprofits are seeking to connect with to build for their future.

If I were a development director I would put QR codes on all my printed material and mention that the scan will take the user to a mobile-optimized destination. I would even go so far as to create unique QR codes for all my printed items and campaigns so I can see what message and placement works.

The end destination is not a mobile-optimized experience

Again, the QR code has nothing to do with this so why is the QR code a bad idea? I have always said all nonprofits need a great experience on mobile since the data says if you don’t, your supporters may disengage and they may give up their support for you. QR codes were created to get people to a mobile-optimized experience fast without having to type in a URL. This is a good experience not a bad one. The bad experience has nothing to do with the QR code; it’s the PC site on a mobile phone that’s the bad use of the QR code.

QR code awareness is small

Again, the data cited to make this claim is from 2011 and among younger demographics awareness is much higher. The graph above suggests both growth in awareness and usage. So this argument is dated and for that reason pretty much another lame argument not supported by current 3rd party data.

We’ve seen success

Some of our customers have used QR codes as part of a coordinated campaign which also leveraged other channels like email and social media. Most notably, they were part of a workplace giving campaign that saw a 10% YOY growth. The QR codes pointed to a mobile site on our platform (mobile-optimized of course) and they were and are a great way to get donors in the workplace to a donation page quickly on their own phone without having to use their employers PCs.

When thinking about using QR codes remember:

  • Their use and awareness are growing
  • Younger demographics skew higher in their use
  • A mobile-optimized destination is mandatory
  • QR code placement is easy, cheap and can be used to see what channels are really working in real-time
  • They are a fast and easy way to get supporters and donors to your fundraising page
  • They work well for workplace giving

I used to think that QR codes were frankly, dumb. Not anymore. In our multi-channel world of engagement, QR codes aren’t bad. They’re good.

Mobile and social: Two peas in the nonprofit pod

18 Sep

peas in a pod

There are two forces, industries, spaces, businesses, phenomenon, whatever you prefer to call them, that are forever changing the face of supporter engagement and fundraising. They are of course, mobile and social.

A few words about each and a summary call-to-action for nonprofits.

Mobile is everywhere. In it’s nature it’s portable and with you all the time. Each day, our eyes spend more time on mobile devices. The world is in the midst of a transition of our internet interaction from the PC to the convenience of having it in the palm of our hand. Mary Meeker at Kleiner Perkins (a well-known VC and accurate predictor of what the digital future will look like IMO) predicts that at the end of 2015 33% of all internet traffic in MBs will be mobile and it will grow from there at a higher rate.

83% of millennials, the next wave of major donors, have smartphones. They, along with their phone, are everywhere and anywhere they want to be, interacting with their friends constantly via these devices. A case could be made for saying that the person and their phone are now one.

Report after report from respected sources like Blackbaud and the Millennial Impact Report urge nonprofits to think “mobile-first” in their approach to the future of giving and supporter communication and engagement. This doesn’t mean that you drop legacy channels like direct mail or personal appeals; it simply means that you need staff looking at the mobile tools and tactics in order to prepare your nonprofit for future success.

If mobile is everywhere around you, it needs to be everywhere inside your nonprofit as well.

Social, likewise, is everywhere and growing in terms of the time spent on it, the number of people on it and the amount of it consumed on a mobile phone. Both Twitter and Facebook would tell you that they are mobile companies. If either is seen to stumble in their approach to mobile, the investment community let’s them know their disapproval loudly and rapidly.

When thinking about social it’s important to remember two things.

One, social sharing on mobile is double that of the PC. The thing about this one is that if a supporter has a bad experience in trying to view your PC site on their mobile, there’s no sharing and you’ve missed a chance at a new supporter and maybe a donation.

Two, and this one’s big; social media and not your PC website are where millennials go to follow you, see what you’re up to and to join in the conversation. If you’re not on social media, they may question in their mind if you’re worth their time. They are picky and a point of consideration for them to engage with you may be “are they on Facebook or Twitter?”

Both Twitter and Facebook have over 50% of their users accessing their content over mobiles. Overtime, this will grow along with the mobile MBs listed above. Any content on a web page that you point to from your social media presence should be quick to load and easy to navigate. This suggests responsive design and a mobile-first mentality.

Like mobiles and people, a case could be made that a person and their social media presence are one. If you’re not honest or not funny or not respectful on social media, it does say something about you as a person.

In summary, mobile and social go together very well. So well, you could say that they are inseparable. Yes, like two happy peas in the same cozy pod. You could also say that they perhaps are one in the same. Everyday and everywhere, it’s easy to see how they both, together and alone, are forever changing the face of supporter engagement and fundraising.

My call-to-action to all nonprofits is to embrace them both today. It’s that simple. Don’t contemplate the future. It’s already here. Mobile and social, together, as one, have delivered the future to today.

The 2013 Millennial Impact Report: My 14 favorite findings

11 Sep

2013 impact

1. 83% of millennials say they have smartphones

Takeaway: Engaging them on their smartphone will rapidly become very important. Over the course of time, they will translate their online behaviors from the PC to the mobile and they will become mobile-first and in some cases, mobile-only. If the PC channel is the only one growing across all nonprofits in the US today, then the mobile channel’s importance is existential.

2. Millennials prefer to connect via technology

Takeaway: Simply stated, smartphones give them instant access to you and vice versa. All your communication and fundraising efforts must take this into consideration. Reliance on non-tech efforts will continue to fade in importance.

3. Millennials facilitate and rely on peer influence

Takeaway: 70% of millennials are willing to raise money on your behalf. Peer-to-peer crowd-fundraising should be a tactic you use going forward to leverage this level of interest. If you make it easy for both parties in this transaction, my sense is that this percentage will rise over time.

4. Make it easy to donate

Not enough energy can be poured into user testing of your PC and mobile donation processes. It has been reported that 50% of donors using smartphones to make donations give up because it’s too hard. Look around at what is on offer for “mobile-friendly” and “mobile-optimized” platforms and solutions. Try them yourselves to see what easy looks like. Look for services that let donors securely store their information so they never have to complete your donation form ever again. Features like this are the new normal and you will be judged by your supporters on how easy you make it for them to give to you.

5. Organizations should think “mobile first”

Takeaway: To me this is obvious but it also speaks to something I call the “consumptive experience”. That’s a fancy way of saying make all the content you share “snack-able”, i.e. small in size which will match the time someone will give you on their smartphone.

6. Millennials no longer rely on updates from your website-they go to social media instead

Social media requires a steady supply of fresh content. When was the last time you updated your website? Millennials abhor stale content. With most social media consumed on smartphones the importance of a great mobile experience is paramount.

7. Millennials biggest complaint about their online experience is navigating non-optimized PC sites on their mobile phone

Takeaway: Your PC site on a mobile phone is not a strategy for success going forward.

8. Millennials are starting to ask for donations to causes they support instead of gifts for birthdays and other occassions

Takeaway: See number 3 above. Are you ready to help them do this? How much do you think grandma and grandpa are ready to give you?

9. Make buttons large enough to that visitors to your mobile site can see them easily and click on them

Takeway: I know, this sound like instructions for a senior but in the online world, easy and fast matters to all ages.

10. Millennials are picky about who they engage with in a noisy and dense marketplace of nonprofits

Takeaway: Donors have choices and if you make it hard for them to follow you and to care with their time, talent and treasure they will likely move on to someone who 1) wants them as much as you, and 2) makes it easy for them to engage and give via their smartphone.

11. 75% of millennials like, share or retweet content on social media

Takeaway: You have to be on social media. Period. Give your supporters ways to share you with their social network. We’ve seen campaigns go viral and the results are eye-popping. Mobile sharing is higher (about double) than the PC.

12. 52% are interested in monthly giving

Takeaway: Got recurring giving? Might be time to add it to your donation options.

13. 60% of millennials like it most when you share success stories

Takeaway: This is especially so if there’s a picture of a kitten or baby. Just kidding. Who doesn’t like a great, feel good nonprofit success story? Share them often and regularly.

14. Giving by text ranks lower than giving by mail and just above giving over the phone

Takeaway: I knew this would be the case but was surprised by how low text-to-give is with millennials as a method to give. Industry titan Blackbaud declared text-to-give as pretty much deceased. I’d say this report bears that out.

So there you have it-my 14 favorite things in the MCON 2013 Millennial Impact Report on Giving. As you might imagine, RAZ Mobile grades well on all categories. As you prepare for the mobile and millennial dominated future of giving, give us a call or sign up for a demo on our website under “Give it a Go”. An hour of your time could mean a world of difference to your nonprofit now and in the rapidly-arriving future.

Will mobile giving be like mobile video?

4 Sep


Back in the day when the word “apps” meant little to nothing and the wireless carriers were bragging about internet speeds in the 144kbps range, I worked at Sprint and in November 2003 I launched MobiTV. We were the first to offer live TV on mobile phones in the US.

So, because I have some history with mobile video (I did win an Emmy in 2005 for delivering live TV to cell phones), I follow headlines about mobile video’s progress and when I saw this one on The Center for Media Research, “Mobile Streaming Preferred Over PC”, I had to check it out.

In the first sentence: “…customers prefer consuming media and entertainment websites via mobile devices than on personal computers.”

At first read this may seem counter-intuitive but if you take a minute there’s two things that I think are driving this.

One, our phones are with us at all times so the opportunity is always with us and you never know, as I always said, when you’re going to be bored or need to be informed. When you find yourself bored or in need of information from live TV, it’s in the palm of your hand.

Two, I believe that we now snack on on all the video we consume and mobile video is always snack-sized because of the format and the context.

The format is small due to the screen size so watching a 2 hour movie on your phone is possible but onerous.

The context is you’re on the go and your phone has about 50 other capabilities on it that could, and often do, interrupt your video watching. And, since so much video streaming is begun from a cue in social media, having a great mobile experience delivered in social media is now an accepted best practice.

What does this have to do with mobile fundraising and giving you ask?

You see, I believe that this same phenomenon of more streaming video being consumed on a mobile phone will translate to more giving via mobile phones than PCs for the same reasons.

Opportunity-give your donors the opportunity to give to you via their mobile phone. This doesn’t mean your PC donation page on the phone. It means a donation page where the first action isn’t pinching and swiping but entering their information into your form.

Format-keep your mobile site snack-sized and your appeals to the point on mobile. Keep the content fresh but don’t worry about translating your multi-page appeal letter into your mobile site or listing all two dozen people on your board.

Context-deliver your mobile site to your supporters in every channel that you have today and this is especially the case with social media and email. The preponderance of these channels being consumed on mobile phones grows each day. The context of these channels pretty much requires a great mobile experience when your supporter is “in the moment” and ready to give.

If you start now in building your mobile tactics and strategy now you’ll likely be able to look back very soon much like I do today at 2003 and mobile video and say to yourself, “I’m really not surprised that mobile fundraising and giving got this big this fast.”