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Mobile Donors Stick Around

By Mark Hrywna - May 1, 2014

Retention rates for mobile subscribers who opt-in to receive messages or donate via text are on average 80 percent, according to data released by The mGive Foundation.

None of the nine organizations studied are specifically focused on disaster relief but range from environmental and animal to health services, according to Jenifer Snyder, executive director of The mGive Foundation. The Denver, Colo.-based organization studied data from nine clients that used mobile actively and moderately over a four-year period and found that the average retention rate was 80 percent for mobile subscribers, with spikes in text donations and donor retention rates of 99 percent when a nonprofit follows mGive’s best practices.

The retention rate is critical because you’re getting 80 percent of people who opt-in to stay, said Snyder, but the data and connection point is the mobile number, one of the only pathways that people typically will retain for seven years or more.

“We don’t have to reactivate expired donors in the same way as emails but you can use text to reactivate email-expired donors,” she said, adding that retention includes those who may have made a gift or opted in to receive messages.

To increase email open rates, Snyder said organizations can “cross-pollinate” channels, encouraging constituents to opt-in at the same time for using email and text. If an email gets bounced back, an organization can then target them with a text message, informing them that the email bounced back.

If you have a mobile campaign and do it correctly, 80 percent of people in that database will stick with you and won’t expire at the same rate as physical or email addresses, Snyder said.

“One of the biggest challenges right now is nonprofits are actually not messaging,” she said. Six months after opting in, a donor might not remember they made a gift or agreed to receive messages. If a nonprofit sends a text message then, a donor might wonder whether it’s spam and opt out, said Snyder.

The most successful clients are building their lists, cultivating lists and soliciting appropriately, said Angela Whaley, senior account manager at mGive.

The number of messages sent each month by one mGive client directly affected their conversion rate. When sending one or two messages per month, 10 percent made a gift when prompted compared with 21 percent who responded when five to seven messages were sent. The five messages, however, weren’t sent to the entire list but specifically targeted parts of the list, Whaley said. “We saw some opt-outs, but we know they’re at least opening the message and taking action — though not the one we want,” she said.

It’s not just the number of messages sent but also the tone of those messages. In testing, Whaley said a dire message with none to follow, saw an increase in donations followed by a quick decrease. A dire message followed by a very specific message and continued follow-up, including progress reports about a donor’s contribution and what it’s doing now, and later soliciting again, experienced an increase in donations. “You want to make it individualized, as personal as possible,” she said.

mGive’s data indicates that mobile donors have a higher long-term value (LTV) and that a donor’s mobile number has a “stickier touch point” and more longevity, Snyder said. “You’ve got to start taking this channel more seriously,” she said. “It’s really not that expensive…but it’s super effective,” she said, with 85 percent of texts read within 15 minutes and a 90 percent open rate.

Some organizations are still having a tough time with broad organizational buy-in that the channel is viable, Snyder said, but if you look around your meeting room, everyone is on their mobile device, adding that many only see it as a fundraising tool when it really can be also for cultivation and activation.

Mobile has to be a strategy, someone has to pay attention to that, whether it’s outsourced or done internally, Snyder said. The first year of a campaign is about building infrastructure and getting your following built, honing your message and tone while the biggest turnaround comes in year two.

Once nonprofits started to understand how to run a mobile campaign and get it to be successful, the pushback was that they don’t have the time, expertise or bandwidth in the organization, according to Whaley.  NPT


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