Tag: mobile campaigns

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


There is a plethora of research out there indicating that your nonprofit will raise more money with an SMS (short message service, aka texting) donation service in your fundraising mix than it will without one. Offering SMS donations to your donors increases the number of opportunities your organization has to collect donations from your prospects.

Consider these statistics:

The data indicates that SMS donations can increase your overall reach, giving you new audiences that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. As younger audiences have begun to move away from traditional giving and towards mobile giving, adding this technology to your fundraising mix means your nonprofit will be better positioned to meet prospective donors where they are.

Two Main Types of Text Giving Services

Basically, there are two types of text-to-donate services. One is text-to-give: Donors text a keyword to your short code, and later their mobile carrier charges them $5 or $10 extra on their bill. Once donors pays their bill, the mobile carrier sends you the donation.

The second type is a service whereby donors make a pledge by text message. It works the same as the other, except that the donor’s phone bill is not billed. Instead, the donor is sent a payment link (like Paypal) to complete the donation.

Is Donating By Text Effective?

Absolutely. People carry their cell phones everywhere nowadays: on the beach, in the delivery room, in the movie theater—there is almost nowhere people go where they do not take their phones. Texting is one of the most ubiquitous, effective forms of communication ever invented.

Texting is fast, simple and easy. And it’s built in by default into every phone manufactured. No app to download, you don’t even need a data plan or WiFi in many cases. With text to donate services like Gnosis, you can reach prospective donors wherever they are, and know with 97% certainty they will read your message—because they initiated the conversation.

So the moral is: If you’re not taking advantage of texting for fundraising, you could be missing out on an essential component of your fundraising marketing mix.

(This article was originally published on Nonprofit Tech for Good and is reprinted here with permission.)

Currently only nonprofits in the United States can take advantage of Facebook Fundraisers. This is frustrating to many NGOs, charities, and nonprofits located outside of the United States, but it’s due to the fact that the United States has a database of nonprofits called GuideStar USA that Facebook can sync with theirs to easily verify a nonprofit’s legal status. Facebook is likely working on expanding their fundraising tools to the United Kingdom and Canada where other such databases exist and eventually (hopefully, finally) a similar database will exist on a global scale (perhaps the BRIDGE Registry or the OnGood Global NGO Directory).

All that said, any Facebook user can now create Facebook Fundraisers for nonprofits listed in the GuideStar/Facebook database which currently numbers around 750,000. For details about Facebook Fundraising Tools and for information about how donations are distributed to your nonprofit, please see: nonprofits.fb.com/topic/fundraising-tools.

Facebook currently has 1.94 billion monthly users. Empowering your supporters to fundraise for your nonprofit inside an online community where they already connected to their friends and family is smart strategy. At the very least, the tools are worth experimenting with.

1. Verify your nonprofit is in the Facebook Fundraiser database.

Go to facebook.com/fundraisers and search for your nonprofit. If listed, your supporters can create Facebook Fundraisers for your nonprofit. Sign up for Facebook’s Fundraising Tools if you want access to daily fundraising reports.

2. Update your Facebook Page Cover Photo.

Your cover photo will be the default photo for the Facebook Fundraisers created by your supporters.

3. Create a “Day of Giving” Facebook Event.

Give your nonprofit four to six weeks to promote your Facebook “Day of Giving” campaign. In the Facebook Event, list the ways that your Facebook Followers can give to you on this day and how they can create a Facebook Fundraiser for your campaign. Then, post your event to Facebook and pin it to the top of your page.

4. Promote your Facebook Event on your website, in your email campaigns, and on social media.

The Humane Society of the United States is an organization regularly in the habit of early adoption of new social media tools and trends. They created a landing page on their website for their “Day of Giving” campaign that is easy to promote online. Study and learn from HSUS: humanesociety.org/dayofgiving

5. Thank your Facebook Fundraisers and donors.

You can’t post a “Thank you” comment as your page on Facebook Fundraisers. If you have a staff person willing to use their personal profile, then your fundraisers would appreciate the acknowledgement. You could also post a link in your Facebook Event where they could sign up for an email list so you can thank and engage them via email. Also, if your nonprofit has signed up for Facebook Fundraising Tools, in daily transaction reports you will receive the email addresses of your donors if they have opt-ed in. Create a system to email and thank them immediately!

It’s the mantra of cause marketers everywhere: the key to success is reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message – one that will motivate immediate, positive action from your intended respondent.

For advocates, this “holy grail” of marketing campaigns is even tougher than for brand marketers in the for-profit world. Advocacy outreach is already complex, and exacerbated by the fact that the “right audience” can vary from those who could most benefit from their services or those of their preferred industry, to those most able and willing to support their activity. Sometimes these audiences are so different that even the advocate’s core messaging has to change to accommodate them.

Such a dichotomy is often tough to pull off in social media, where each online “persona” is relentlessly tested for authenticity. But there is one medium that has become at once so pervasive, and yet so personal, that it can uniquely deliver relevant messages that inspire immediate action: targeted mobile advertising.

Mobile Outreach – by the Numbers

Last month, Nielsen reported figures from Q3 of 2016 showing that the number of monthly users of apps and web via smartphone for adults 18 and over outstripped the number of people accessing the internet via desktop or laptop. (Tablets – another mobile device that can be targeted with video and rich-media messaging – are the digital device of choice for U.S. children.)

Moreover, more adults viewed video via smartphone than on their computers. Some 90% of those 18-24 watch video via smartphone or tablet; 86% of those 25-34 do, and 79% of those 35-49 do. Even more than half of adults 50-59 watch video via smartphone or tablet. The connection between a millennial audience and mobile media is undeniable:
• 95% watch video on mobile at least once a week
• 48% ONLY watch videos on their mobile devices (the so-called “unplugged” you’ve heard so much about.)
• 58% watch video on mobile as their sole activity (compared with 28% for TV)
• 80% find video helpful during initial research for a purchasing decision.

In its January report, US Time Spent with Mobile: A Deep Dive into Mobile App and Web Time, eMarketer reported that mobile video viewing time skews more heavily toward apps, with U.S. adults spending 20 minutes daily in apps vs. 11 minutes per day via mobile websites.

Mobile App Indicators: Persuasion’s Secret Sauce

Not all mobile video is created equal, and finding a willing audience where the “exit” is just a thumb-swipe away, is critical to the success of mobile ad campaigns. There is a “secret sauce” to those that have been able to leverage this technology to best effect, and it goes back to the holy grail scenario cited above. Those most persuadable to your point of view probably share common characteristics and interests besides their age, gender, income, and even location. Sometimes, what people DO on their most personal of information device – specifically via the apps they download and use every day – says as much about them and their potential affinity for your cause or your campaign as where they live or their demographics.


To be fair, many of the same targeting techniques that can be used in mobile advertising can be applied to online and social ads as well. But using the apps on users’ phones to “crack the code” of audience psychographics has proven remarkably powerful for us in targeting both branding and political campaigns.

We like to say “you are what you app,” which means that the app ecosystem on each person’s phone can be a roadmap to their personality, preferences and passions. Some of these indications are simple: you may be an in-market car buyer if you have Edmunds, Kelly Blue Book or Car Checker. You can spot a mom with small children by their K-12 educational apps combined with apps on great 30-minute meals. I’m a hockey fan, so of course I’ve downloaded the app from the Washington Caps (something you wouldn’t guess by my demographic, and I’ll leave it at that!)

Discerning differences in today’s party-hopping, populist era might be a bit tougher, but you might be a Democrat if you get your political news from Atlantic Monthly, NYT.com and Mother Jones. You might, conversely, vote Republican if you sport an NRA app and stream Fox News.

What does this look like in real life? When SONY Pictures wanted to herald the release on DVD of a movie about the transformative power of prayer at WalMart, we targeted mobile users when they were within a few miles of a WalMart that also had either Bible or church apps on their phones. The resulting synergy between messaging and target audience drove one of the highest sales days among the retailer’s movie releases.

On the political front, we mobile voters in Georgia who had an NRA app with a 30-second video endorsement by the NRA of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) for his recent re-election campaign. And, we didn’t stop there. We also targeted a different, 15-second ad spot talking about how Isakson was the “most effective” legislator in Congress to people whose apps resembled those of NRA members. (In digital marketing, we call this a “look-alike” campaign.) Both ads were charged on a “cost per completed view” basis, meaning the senator’s campaign only paid when someone watched the ad to its completion. Because the ad was so relevant to users to whom it was delivered, the video completion ratio was greater than 80%.

Only as Good as the Gardener

Like any tool in the shed, mobile targeting may not be for everyone. Advocacy marketing funds are always limited because organizations want to use the maximum amount of resources in driving the kind of change for which they were created – not just in ad campaigns. When the money does become available, non-profits either want to “go big” – grab the highest number of eyeballs possible via broadcast TV – or spend the least amount of money possible, perhaps by building out a social profile and trying to activate the organization’s own users.

The first step in figuring out whether a targeted mobile ad campaign could help your organization could be to conduct a “super-user” survey to find out their media habits. Do your most supportive followers cite mobile media as a key activity? Does commonly available media research tell you the same thing? Consult your website stats; most analytic programs will tell you how many of your web visits are from users on their mobile devices.

Start small, and learn fast. If you can instantly think of apps that would be commonly used by your potential constituents, if you have a cultural target that is hard to discern in other ways, if your target falls strictly within a specific geographic area (high-income ZIP codes, or voters within a single state or other locale), or if your audience is overwhelmingly millennial or younger, then it’s probably worth a test. Posit a demographic, geographic and psychographic “bullseye” for a test campaign, then – when it succeeds – stretch its boundaries as far as practical so long as your goals are met.

Be realistic. It is possible to over-target in terms of the specific audience characteristics of the people you think might join your bandwagon, and targeting can’t make up for missing the mark on poor media choices generally. As with all technological advances, nonprofits may lag their brand marketer peers in adoption, but Sabio is committed to both inclusion in the political process and supporting nonprofits as much as humanly possible.

Telling a story from the perspective of those people that advocates are trying to help, or communicating surprising truths to the uninitiated, still requires creative skill. Don’t hesitate to try out your messaging in social video first and let the audience weigh in on its effectiveness before delivering it to a wider audience. Just don’t assume that the people you’d most like to influence will necessarily find it without some help.


Kristin Johnson is a speaker at the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference in March.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s been a slight uptick in people exhibiting activist-like behaviors in the last couple months. I can prove this based solely on my Facebook wall, where I have watched my political D.C. friends get out-activisted by old high school classmates and friends of my mother, who went from sharers of baby photos to vehement, pink-hat wearing radicals.

I have lifted my jaw off the ground multiple times, marveling at the Google spreadsheets being passed around each day with phone numbers and scripts for contacting Members of Congress. Suddenly, town halls are the new brunch, and wait—was that—were people chanting the number for the Capitol switchboard at that rally?

These new activists, hungry for knowledge, are not just sharing daily targets and talking points—they are also discussing the most effective ways to change votes and influence their legislators.

And in lots of ways, nonprofits are missing from the equation.

Sure, some orgs are seeing definite boosts in actions and donations, especially from their existing base of supporters, but this new wave of people are learning how to engage with decision makers via their friends and online networks, and not necessarily hopping on our email lists to be fed a steady diet of action alerts and online petitions.

Add to that, these newbies are spreading articles and tweetstorms that Members of Congress don’t necessarily read those nonprofit-inspired emails and petitions—or even trust that they were sent from real constituents.


Death of the Action Alert?

Online mass advocacy campaigns have never been perfect. The better we’ve gotten with edit-and-send email technology and name collection tools, the better the offices we’re targeting have gotten with receiving (or ignoring) them. Many recipients now have the technology to run them through computer algorithms to group similar text and topics and respond with the same form letter.

Nonprofit: “Yay! We got 10,000 people to submit our action!”
Congressional Staffer: “Yeah… We’re going to count that as one vote in favor…”

For many nonprofits, these tactics are the bread and butter of online advocacy. Sending petitions and form letters are a useful pulse check to an email list, and they still reign as one of the most cost-effective acquisition tools to bring on new names.

But when it comes to connecting a constituent and a decision maker, time and again, it’s the personal stories, in-person meetings, and jammed up phone lines that get noticed.

“I don’t care if those emails don’t get read—500 of those 10,000 actions came from people new to my list,” you may say. I get it—in the fight against constant email list attrition, new names are gold. People who engage with you as activists are more likely to become donors, who in turn, could help you fund other lobbying activities that may be more effective in turning a vote.

But as your advocacy team huddles late into the night trying to figure out how to get my mom’s friends signed up to your email list, you must think through how your organization can be of value to these new activists—and to all your veteran grassroots champions for that matter.

Will Nonprofits Be Able to Prove the Change They Make?

Before your organization presumes to step in between a person and their representative, reassess what you bring to the table.

  • What can your organization do to amplify those voices and make them 100 times more effective?
  • What can you do for someone that a viral Google Doc just can’t?
  • What part do you play best? Organizer? Travel Agent? Educator? Event Coordinator?

Revisit the last five times your nonprofit’s advocacy efforts had a direct impact on legislation or a policy decision: What votes have your supporters actually changed the outcome of?

Was your nonprofit was one of 15 other organizations to flood Senator So-and-So’s office with thousands of emails about an issue last year? That’s nice. Did they change their vote? Is their re-election at risk if they didn’t?

What did your organization do that was different from the 15 other groups? What got through?

Remaining a Part of the Equation

For the nonprofit community to continue being seen as relevant to new generations of activists, we must measure our reputations for effectiveness alongside our list sizes.

The nonprofits that get noticed will be the ones who find ways to aid and abet activists. They will be the ones who outline effective plans of attack that mesh online and offline tactics to surround a target.

They will be the nonprofits who can prove to people that joining their ranks is better than going it alone.

It’s a communications challenge as much as it is an organizing challenge, but it’s one that thoughtful nonprofits have the ability to crack.

The Wikimedia Foundation has cracked the puzzle on optimizing people power. Millions of volunteers contribute to Wikimedia as editors. But the foundation goes a step further and nurtures volunteer leaders to take on specialized projects that strengthen its community.

You might think that a technology-focused org like Wikimedia would see its platform as the channel for volunteer contributions. Not so. Wikimedia also invests in face-to-face, community-led initiatives. Volunteers participate in “idea labs” where they design and build tools the movement needs to connect more deeply with members. Volunteers also tackle community issues, like the gender gap in editors, or online harassment.

The organization empowers its volunteers with trust and responsibility. “As these are community issues, we expect that the best ideas will come from the community,” said Jaime Anstee, Senior Strategist, Manager, Learning & Evaluation, at Wikimedia.

Despite being a tech-focused nonprofit, Wikimedia doesn’t fall into a common NGO pattern of emphasizing online mobilizing over organizing. Author and academic Hahrie Han describes these two distinct ways of looking at building people power. In my interview with Han for Beyond the First Click: How Today’s Volunteers Build Power for Movements and NGOs, she explains the difference between the approaches:

Mobilizers essentially say, “wherever you want to come in on the engagement ladder, we will make it work for you.” They are creating opportunities for involvement that match with interests that people already have. With all the data and technology tools that we have, it’s easier than ever to search for and identify who those people might be.

In contrast, organizers want to engage supporters in a set of experiences that will try to transform their interests, motivations and skills so that they want to do more. This work is more transformational than what the mobilizers are doing.

In other words, mobilizers go broad while organizers go deep. Han’s research for her book How Organizations Develop Activists uncovered that the most effective orgs blend the two approaches. “The changes that mobilizers affect are fragile, because they’re missing the leadership core that helps to protect those wins from future threats.”

However, our research bore out that the typical non-profit in 2017 has a powerful bias toward mobilizing over organizing. Why? Because that’s where they’ve invested most heavily.

Many nonprofits have spent money and time on CRMs, petition platforms, social media, and other tech that can be effective tools in achieving large-scale mobilization. But these platforms are often not configured for organizing volunteers who are doing on-the-ground work and recruiting others to the cause. Inside any organization, financial investment signals importance, so staff often follow the money and the tech and, by doing so, reinforce the overemphasis on mobilizing in their work.

As executive director of Control Shift Labs, Nathan Woodhull often advises organizations on their technology mix. When it comes to tracking volunteer behavior he finds that most groups have misaligned incentives: “I don’t think most organizations have any idea. It’s a hard problem, and the tools that exist today are mostly focused on broadcasting to 500,000-plus people rather than recording one-to-one conversations.”

Woodhull suggests that activists can take lessons on high-level volunteer engagement from political parties. Becky Bond, senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, confirmed this perspective in an interview about how Bernie organizers used technology: “The under-25 crowd understood the notion that Facebook doesn’t win elections, that posting to social media doesn’t move votes. What we needed to do was use social media to organize people to actually do the one-on-one voter contact that’s proven to have the biggest impact on moving voters to the polls. That work is going door-to-door, getting on the phone, and talking to voters live.”

Is your organization overemphasizing mobilization? One indicator of this is when you’ve got a gap between your supporters’ online actions and their offline ones. It’s a challenge to transition people from the web, but if you’re prioritizing mobilizing over organizing, your digital supporters may be falling into a black hole when they’re ready for more.

Julie is the co-author of Beyond the First Click: How Today’s Volunteers Build Power for Movements and NGOs. This article is adapted from the report.

Who isn’t interested in doing a great job maximizing mobile for diverse demographics? It’s important! It’s still not easy reaching around the world, but we’ve taken a whack at it in 2014 and want to share some successes and lessons learned.

In NTEN’s September Connect, we shared recommendations on maximizing mobile. Now we’d like to give you an update and share what we learned about global mobile engagement — a sequel, if you will — from a major international campaign we ran together with the Varkey GEMS Foundation based in London. The Global Teacher Prize is a prestigious, new Nobel-style prize that seeks to celebrate innovative, world-class teaching by inviting K-12 teachers from around the world to share their stories and experience from their classrooms. You may have seen the featured piece in October, “The search for the million dollar teacher.”

Our task was to reach around the world digitally to find the best teachers and encourage them to apply for the $1 million prize. We sought to inspire their communities to nominate teachers and follow up with the teachers to apply for the prize. A large percentage of the world accesses the Internet via mobile, whether because they are on the go or because they don’t have a computer at home. So we worked with Varkey GEMS to ensure that the campaign was as mobile-friendly as possible. As a result, we attracted visitors from nearly every country in the world and received applications for the prize from 127 countries.

Now here’s what you’ve been waiting for: our top 10 tips for you based on what we’ve learned from this campaign.

  1. Make social media your top priority for promotion: Facebook posts were the most effective in getting and keeping audience attention. Facebook generated the most acquisition in terms of views and applications. Google Analytics showed that our top five referrals were from social media. Story-based content plus highlights on influencers or celebrities outperformed more generalized content on social media. Close-up images of people outperformed images framed farther; images are also more mobile-friendly close up. And shorter messages or messages broken into shorter paragraphs outperformed longer paragraphs. We adjusted to a lighter messaging tone and imagery over the course of the campaign, which made the content more approachable to teachers, who are often humble about their hard work in classrooms. Thirty percent of Facebook users only access the site via mobile, according to a recent study, and over 1 billion people access Facebook on their mobile phones each month. Knowing this, social media was key to our global outreach strategy.
  2. Speak in tongues: Multilingual outreach helps build trust and reach people in a language with which they are comfortable. We translated the website into six languages (English, Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese), created social visual content that’s optimal for mobile viewing by international audiences, created messaging that focused on diverse individuals, highlighted their success from around the world, and published Google Ads in other languages, such as Spanish.
  3. Create a budget for social ads: Facebook ads were our best friend because of the importance that Facebook now places on social ads in their algorithm to reach your Fans and Friends of Fans. 62% of Facebook’s revenues now come from mobile ads, so even at low dollar amounts, ads are now critical to any strategy. We were able to reach a highly targeted and low-cost teacher audience on Facebook using Power Editor.
  4. Develop mobile-friendly landing pages: We lowered the website bounce rate by improving mobile-friendliness. Every second counts because people interact differently from mobile than they would from a desktop. Headlines and copy should be short. Think minimal, with white space as your friend. The Call to Action should be immediately visible.
  5. Use mobile texting (SMS): TextMagic.com brought our messages to teachers’ cell phones around the world at a reasonable cost in the last month of the campaign to send friendly reminders to complete the application. Sometimes nominees entered mobile phone information inconsistently (e.g., missing country or regional codes), making preparation for text messaging time-intensive. Your mobile phone field should guide people to enter their country code and leave out a zero in front.
  6. Don’t forget about email—it’s still relevant: People who searched on Google and who discovered the Global Teacher Prize through email tended to stay on the website longer than those who discovered the prize through social media. The number of returning visitors increased in frequency towards the end of the campaign, because of our coordinated email and SMS mobile texting efforts targeting partially completed applicants. As noted in the M+R and NTEN 2014 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study, nonprofit organization email lists still have strong growth—up 14% in 2013. Although key email metrics, including open rates and response rates, have declined while social media audiences have grown rapidly, for every 1,000 email subscribers nonprofits had just 199 Facebook fans and 110 Twitter followers. Your email list has great potential for reaching both mobile & desktop users—do you ever check your email while waiting in line or for a friend? Be sure to make those emails mobile-friendly.
  7. Test your keywords to find the winners: Via testing on Google Grant Ads, which give nonprofits $333 worth of ads per day free ($10,000 per month), we found that “maestro” (Spanish for teacher) was an important keyword in reaching new audience members and that “school teacher” kept our audience on the website longer than other keywords. What keywords work best for you? Google Grant Ads offer an important opportunity to reach new audiences, test messaging, and build a supporter base for free (except for the work involved!). Include a call-to-action phrase and use keywords that get the highest number of clicks or impressions, especially in the ad title. Ads on Facebook and Twitter are also an effective way to reach a large number of people quickly and test what words and imagery work best. Check the stats to see which ads are performing best and figure out why so you can replicate success.
  8. Check the metrics like a data lover: Be metrics-driven and data-informed to know what content and imagery are working best. Use tagged links (you can create them with the Google URL Builder tool) to track where your conversions are coming from (e.g. social media or email) and, more granularly, what type of content. We could see a diverse user group represented in our visitors, with lighthearted and humorous content outperforming other content. Learning that, we leaned in on the “fun stuff.” A week-by-week spreadsheet showed growth over time along the array of metrics that we cared most about. On a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, take an in-depth overview of your metrics so you know what’s working best (and least) to optimize outreach.
  9. Create an editorial calendar: Celebrate special dates that matter to the audience you’re working to reach by planning ahead with a calendar and also checking news feeds to see what similar organizations are celebrating in the moment. You can tap into the wider cultural zeitgeist and reach more people more easily with events that unite the world. We incorporated large international events, such as the World Cup, to reach a broad global audience and generate buzz, and days like World Teachers’ Day to reach our primary target. Event-based images will likely outperform your posts that are not connected to wider events.
  10. Tap allies, partners, influencers, and bloggers: Who are the influencers your audience trusts and to whom do they look for advice and opportunities? When you reach out to these potential allies to support your work, do it with a friendly note that’s as short as possible. Consider including a ready-to-go tweet or two (sample text with shortened link and mention of your Twitter handle, or a link with tweet using something like ClicktoTweet.com). The Global Teacher Prize gained invaluable support from big teacher-focused sites like Edutopia sharing the prize on their big list of grants and resources, and from enthusiastic teacher-bloggers with large followings.

Good luck! We hope this helps you mobilize with mobile.

Technology is helping community members have a voice in their community’s growth.

The Saint Consulting Group, a management consulting firm specializing in land use politics, and Five Corners Strategies, a grassroots public affairs firm, are humanizing community involvement in real estate development.

Since its inception in 1983, Saint has ensured that people have a voice in community development. With experience on over 1,800 projects, the firm understands that the impact that development projects have on people and communities is often big. They believe, therefore, that it’s critical that residents in an impacted area have a way to voice their opinions about the projects.

Through utilizing mobile engagement tools, they are now making it easier for community members to get involved.

One project Saint Consulting is involved with is a major development proposal in Oakland, California called Coliseum City. The city is promoting the ambitious project that will create 21,000 jobs over the next 20 years by developing three new sporting venues, an intermodal transit hub, mixed-use developments, and much more.

Saint uses the following tactics, powered by an integrated mobile and web-based software platform, to empower community advocates:

  • Advocates send a text message to learn about the program – in this case, they text “OAKLAND” to 52886
  • Saint replies with a text message that takes advocates to a mobile-friendly action center where they can take action and let their officials know how they feel about a proposal
  • Once the commission receives the message from the advocate, they can respond directly to the supporter, drawing them even further into the civic process
  • The most engaged and committed advocates attend open houses, testify at hearings, and call their officials

By allowing people to voice their opinions through their phones, the firm has seen “overwhelming response from constituents,” said Courtney Graziano, Director of Digital Strategy for Saint Consulting.

In the first few weeks since the campaign became public, thousands have engaged with the tools by sending letters about the project to city planning officials responsible for making decisions on the project.

Saint is getting the word out by passing out flyers at games and giving t-shirts to canvassers at events educating people how they can get involved simply by texting.

“Oakland residents are passionate about keeping their beloved Oakland teams in Oakland,” Graziano continued. “The tools we are using now make it easy for anyone with a phone to have a say in the future of this city.”

The campaign has also started to go viral. For instance, a popular radio show host was advertising how people can get involved simply by sending a text message on his weekly show.

“One night, we saw that 300 new people joined the campaign – all from listening to a passionate supporter of the project tell people how they can make a difference – just by sending a text message,” Graziano said.

“The future of land use development is about using technology to make it easier to find new ways to reach people in their community, educate them on the projects, and empower them to get involved,” said Graziano.

Another consulting firm that specializes in community engagement to support land use projects is Five Corners Strategies. One of the projects they are working on is a development proposal for Washington, DC’s soccer team, DC United. The team is looking to relocate to a new stadium to be built within the District.

Five Corners has used innovative means to find and identify supporters of the project, including working with DC United to sponsor festivals like FiestaDC, the largest Latino festival in the Eastern United States, with more than 100,000 attendees in 2014.

One successful tactic they used was a live call-to-action at the event. Attendees were invited to text “ESTADIO” to 52886 to register their support for the initiative. Participants got to see their name appear on event’s main projection screen, creating excitement for everyone in attendance.

“Five Corners Strategies uses a combination of the latest mobile engagement tools and old school, tried and true canvassing and door knocking to engage the community on the projects we work on. People want to be involved in their communities – they just don’t always know how they can be. We help fill that gap,” Ben Kelahan, Partner at Five Corners Strategies, said.

These types of projects are leading the way in leveraging digital mobilization tools in land use projects by making it easier for community members to voice their opinions.

Mobile technology has revolutionized the means of communication. Today, nobody can afford not to use it. In particular, this applies to NGOs. This is why it is so important to be aware of opportunities associated with mobile technologies and promotion of good practices, such as the conference to be held in Warsaw in May, Sektor 3.0.

Mobility. Revolution or everyday life?

When I travel through Warsaw, Poland everyday on my way to the office, by bus or by subway, I see more and more people preoccupied with their smartphones and tablets. A printed newspaper is becoming a rare sight. Like the traditional cell phones which we used until quite recently to send text messages and make hundreds of morning calls, mobile devices of all kinds and types have become as much of a necessity as a toothbrush. Everyday, we use hundreds of applications for communication, banking services, and entertainment. The inflow of new software for smartphones is so overwhelming that it’s difficult to track, or to use for that matter.

You say this is obvious? You say the mobile revolution is something normal to you? It’s true – the mobile revolution is no longer a revolution; for a long time it has been a part of our everyday lives. This is why I find it surprising that only a small percentage of Polish organizations of the third sector have included the use of mobile applications and devices in their strategies.

Why is this? A short questionnaire distributed among partner NGOs has indicated two possible reasons for this situation. First of all, NGOs lack awareness of the benefits associated with the use of mobility; secondly, we haven’t figured out how to implement the practical solutions, allowing us to take advantage of this mobility. Therefore, I’m waiting very impatiently for Sektor 3.0 to take place, which is to be dedicated fully to issues of mobility this year.

We cannot afford to give up mobility

I’m fully convinced that the selection of mobility as the main theme of the Sektor 3.0 conference is right. According to the to TNS Polska Mobile Life 2013 survey, about 31% of Poland’s population use mobile devices, such as smartphones. Initial data from 2014 TNS Polska surveys show 44% of people use mobile devices everyday to pay their bills, read mail and websites, and to communicate. According to forecasts, an estimated 60% of Poland’s population will be using smartphones in 2015. Fast Internet over the phone is no longer a luxury. Therefore, third sector organizations simply cannot afford to give up the opportunities offered by mobility. So, how do we take advantage of it?

The simplest way seems to be to use mobile devices for internal purposes of the organization; for instance, to improve the way an organization functions. I won’t list specific applications here. It’s sufficient to indicate such fields as project management, time management, or communication. Many solutions have been described very thoroughly, and it takes very little effort to find them.  Application of a single software solution for all employees may allow for coordination and substantial acceleration of work in the organization. This is particularly true in Poland, where a significant percentage of organizations operate on the local scale with a dispersed membership.

Use of mobile communication or task management applications under such circumstances exerts significant impact on their effectiveness. Therefore, awareness of the potential of individual applications is much more significant than familiarity with specific solutions. Taking into account how many people use mobile devices and how quickly the numbers of tablet or smartphone users are growing, the capability of NGOs to take advantage of this potential seems to be a necessity. In this case, mobile devices can be used not only to improve the internal functioning of the organization, but also to ensure more effective communication or promotion among the present and potential audience.

Once again, we should ask ourselves how to take advantage of these opportunities. The first thing we can do is to perform an audit of the web page or blog of the organization to check whether it’s friendly for mobile devices. If not, we should consider its adaptation. In the case of WordPress-based pages or blogs, the problem seems to be quite simple, as we can choose among a number of plug-ins or motives which can be displayed very well on mobile devices. We can also go one step further – consider an application or applications aimed at our direct audience.  A well thought-out application may be directed at the potential donors. Why not make it easier for them to support our organizations by offering applications for mobile devices? A similar solution could be provided for volunteers or candidates for volunteers.

Good practices

For many organizations, mobility and full use of its potential may seem difficult or even unattainable. However, we have already seen the first examples of how well the use of mobile devices may fit into promotion and activity of NGOs. The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, one of the biggest Polish NGOs which activates more than 100,000 volunteers every year, gathering millions of zlotys to help improve healthcare for children, has shown recently how useful a simple smartphone application may turn out to be in practice. The application of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity for smartphone users was made available in the market of the Android platform – Google Play. Thanks to the application, it’s possible to browse through the news associated with this nationwide fundraising event for sick children. The application allows the users to search in a simple manner for the nearest Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity branch (local unit coordinating the activity of volunteers) and send a Premium text message to support the foundation. It also allows the user to monitor the current amount of money gathered from the donors. Does it pay off? The organization, yet again, has reached a record-breaking amount of funds gathered.

Join Sektor 3.0!

The application of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity is only one example that demonstrates the potential of mobile technology. This is why – keeping in mind the dominant trends – the focus of the Sektor 3.0 conference is mobile technology. This year, the organizers expect upwards of 350 guests from all parts of Poland, and 30 speakers representing such fields as business, science, politics, and, of course, the third sector. The conference is held through the New Technologies Locally program organized by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, and implemented by The Information Society Development Foundation (FRSI).

Learn more about the Sektor 3.0 conference: http://sektor3-0.pl/konferencja2014/

Why use scissors to cut the grass when you can use a lawn mower? In the world of impact measurement with remote beneficiaries, mobile is the new lawn mower.

Four nonprofits are leading the way in leveraging mobile technology to hear directly from remote beneficiaries. Each has a very different mission:

But all have the shared goal of hearing directly from their beneficiaries about whether their work is working, and mobile enables them to do it.

Where there is no internet

cisco_foundation_main_images-44.jpgIn India, where these nonprofits work, only 137 million households have internet access, out of a population of 1.2 billion. So surveying your beneficiaries online is not an option.

Until recently, organizations used the crude tools of pen-and-paper surveys (challenging with a 65% female literacy rate) or in-person interviews (not reliable for sensitive questions as the respondent may just tell you what they think you want to hear). Neither of these is scalable, and both are error-prone since they require manual data entry.

Deploying pen-and-paper surveys with a low literacy population is a bit like mowing the lawn with scissors. It’s time-consuming and doesn’t quite get the job done.

Yet in the same country there are 929 million mobile subscribers and growing (soon approaching the total population size). Now we’re onto something.

How it works

cisco_foundation_main_images-31.jpgWe designed the Labor Link platform to help organizations leverage this new mobile connectivity to listen to beneficiaries. We made it free, anonymous, and voice-based (not SMS) – so it does not require literacy. It also works on basic feature phones, the medium most familiar to the masses.

Target respondents call a local phone number, place a missed call (let it ring and hang up, a common practice in India), and immediately get a call-back from our automated system. They answer 10-12 multiple-choice questions with their touchtone keypad that are voice-recorded in Hindi, Tamil, or other local language.

Then we analyze that data for the nonprofit, giving them real-time feedback from the field.  And close the loop with the respondent through voice-recorded messages that make them feel heard and share locally relevant educational content.

How nonprofits are using it

Following a high-profile rape case in 2012 in New Delhi that mobilized advocates for women’s rights and safety, SAI, for example, wanted to measure workers’ understanding of their right to equal treatment in the workplace. The organization was running a training program on gender discrimination in garment factories. The project was funded by DFID, the UK international aid agency, as part of a broader effort called Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) to improve working conditions in garment factories.

We partnered with SAI to design a survey on women’s issues and delivered it at seven factories employing over 12,000 people. It asked questions like “Is rude language sometimes necessary to communicate urgency in the factory?” and “Are there some jobs at the factory that are only suitable for men or women, but not both?”

The response was overwhelming. Nearly 40% of targeted workers completed surveys, consistent with other survey campaigns we’ve conducted and much higher than the average 5-10% on customer surveys.

Other nonprofits we work with have had a similar experience. VisionSpring is using Labor Link to understand if the people reached by their eyeglass distribution campaigns could afford or had access to other eyeglasses, and the impact of their new glasses on productivity at work or school. GoodWeave is giving rug weavers an anonymous channel to report on sensitive issues like the presence of child labor in their workplace. And Fair Trade USA is measuring the social and economic ripple effect of Fair Trade in communities that grow tea, coffee, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

What we’re learning

Through these partnerships in India, we’ve learned a few things that maximize participation, data quality, and value across the board. To survey beneficiaries effectively via mobile, keep in mind these 5 things:

  1. Keep the survey short. Anything longer than 4 minutes on the phone and callers start to drop off, which affects data quality. That translates into about 10-12 multiple-choice questions.
  2. Offer simple incentives for participation. We typically use mobile credit because it’s a universal currency and can be administered virtually to the respondent’s phone.
  3. Close the loop with respondents. Think of the last survey you took. Do you know what happened to the data? Make sure your respondents are not answering questions into a black hole. Thank them, and let them know what you found and what you’re doing about it.
  4. Compare with other data sources for a 3D picture. What other data sources do you have access to – either your own data or public sources like UN or World Bank data – to provide additional context?
  5. Re-package the findings for partners. We find that maximum transparency is best. Share the results with respondents and other stakeholders, such as shop-keepers (for customer surveys) or employers (for workplace surveys). It builds trust for future information sharing.

Lastly, let’s share with the wider world. This is innovative stuff. We need a community of practice around really listening to beneficiaries and reporting back on what we find. Our nonprofit partners have found that donors are eager for such direct beneficiary feedback. In fact, some of this work in India is supported by a grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) unit.

Nonprofits are also using Labor Link mobile survey data to strengthen business relationships. “Labor Link enables farm management to stay intimately connected to their workers,” says Hannah Freeman, Director of Produce & Floral at Fair Trade USA. “In Fair Trade, we see it as an opportunity to strengthen communication and improve the operational efficiency of our key partners.”

Just as there are many ways to cut the lawn – from scissors to a lawn mower, or even a goat – there are many ways to capture impact data. But when you’re trying to reach a low literacy population that lacks internet access, mobile is the way to get it done in a way that’s reliable, affordable, and scalable.