Experimentation is not a four-letter word

28 Jan


Back in the early 2000s I was the TV guy at Sprint.

If you recall, the early 2000s there was no Facebook, no smartphones and really not much of a mobile internet. Data speeds were woeful at 144kbps.

But there I was working (with skeptics all around me) on getting mobile phones to play video and live TV. Experimentation was required. No one had really any idea how the wireless networks would behave, how consumers would use TV and video on their phones or if anyone even wanted video on their phone. We had to, and did, try everything and watched what happened.

We had 4 TV products in market and were trying all kinds of content to see what resonated with our customers. On a daily basis, I analyzed the market and refined the business of TV on phones. In 2005 I was rewarded for my experimentation with an Emmy Award in engineering for putting live TV on phones.

Fast forward to the current day and TV and video on phones is so, well, early 2000s.

The point that I am making is that the mobile internet has figuratively turned the world upside down and many smart people and large brands are having trouble adjusting. To survive and thrive the unfolding mobile computing wave, experimentation must be embraced.

I know this is hard for the nonprofit space to embrace. Failure can lead to ridicule and mis-spent funds. Donors, supporters and staff alike may revolt. And yet experimentation must be embraced.

Think of it in terms of what’s ahead. The phone is replacing the PC as the primary internet access device. This trend will not end. Older donors (aka Boomers) are soon to be replaced by the largest cohort of younger donors (aka 80 million Millennials). But the fact remains-all generations love easy, frictionless giving.

So before it really matters now is the time to experiment and learn. Don’t say “our donors are older and won’t give on their phones”. That dear reader is a total cop-out. If the Chronicle of Philanthropy says that BILLIONS OF DOLLARS are being left untapped without mobile giving options TODAY, one cannot say that it’s the donors age causing it.

Moreover, the biggest reason people haven’t given via their phone is THEY HAVEN”T BEEN ASKED!

All nonprofits need to start asking so that they can learn what works.

And they need to start asking themselves these kinds of questions:

  • What’s the best way to enable mobile giving at an event?
  • How many people give on their phone after reading our appeal email?
  • What mobile giving options can we add to our direct mail?
  • Can our board benefit from having a link to share with prospective givers via their phone?
  • Are there businesses and organizations that we can empower to make the ask on our behalf via social media?

There are dozens more questions in addition to the few above that need to be answered at all nonprofits and just as it was when I launched TV at Sprint-the only way to get answers is to experiment.

Failing is not failure if in the process you learn something new. Mobile is new and taking the place of the PC. Mastering what works could make a world of difference to your nonprofit sooner than you think.

Dale Knoop is part of a great team working to make RAZ Mobile a great platform for any cause engaged in fundraising. Any cause can create an content-rich mobile presence, share it through text messages, social media, QR codes, advertising and more and best of all-quickly and securely process donations from motivated supporters. Dale holds multiple patents and applications for patent in the mobile space including advertising, content optimization, geo-targeting, negative QOS and a mnemonic device QR code alternative.

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