May 15, 2013, 9:50 AM

Mobile donations triple in 2012

The Humane Society of the United States doubled its percentage of year-end gifts from mobile.

Lead Photo

Over the course of 2012, donations to nonprofit organizations from mobile web sites increased 205%, according to fundraising technology and services provider Artez Interactive. Additionally, nonprofits that offer mobile web sites, apps or both for taking donations generate up to 123% more individual donations per campaign than organizations that don’t, the company says.

Artez in 2012 tracked 16 nonprofit fundraising campaigns around the world that raised amounts ranging from $100,000 to $10 million to create the report, “Mobile matters: The impact of mobile technology on peer-driven fundraising campaigns.”

For nonprofit organization The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), mobile donations during its biggest campaign at the end of 2012 accounted for 4% of its overall fundraising, up from 1% a year earlier, says manager of online technology Lara Koch. “The jump in 12 months and the comfort level that people have gotten in making a donation through a mobile-optimized form is huge,” she says.

Still, the average gift on mobile tends to be lower than on desktop, Koch says. She posits that one reason is that larger gift givers are generally older and less mobile-oriented. However, during crises like Hurricane Sandy, when consumers are looking to donate quickly, both text-to-give and mobile donation forms draw in substantial funds, she says. “When stuff like that happens, mobile becomes the tool for people to use,” she says. “Eventually, it will permeate into everyday giving and into other demographics.”

Previously, HSUS used mobile as a passive means of generating money, she says. For years the organization has had a text-to-give program and a few mobile-optimized web donation forms, but it didn’t promote them, she says. In part that’s because making each form easy to use on a smartphone or tablet took hours of difficult labor for an employee to code by hand, so the organization didn’t waste time, money and effort on optimizing them all, she says.

In March and April of this year, HSUS launched smartphone- and tablet-optimized versions, respectively, of its complete, 12,000-page desktop web site, Koch says. Although she can’t yet measure the direct effect on fundraising, the organization already has record levels of mobile site traffic, she says—last month nearly one-third (32.5%) of the organization’s online visits came from mobile devices, a new high and up from just 7% of traffic at the end of 2011, she says.

The Humane Society of the United States enlisted vendor Moovweb to optimize its entire web site for mobile in December. Moovweb provides clients with a piece of code to add to their desktop web sites. That code lets it pull all the data from the site into a cloud platform—or software that is hosted on the Internet—to create and serve up mobile-optimized versions of each web page to consumers using mobile devices. The vendor took about three months to iron out how to preserve HSUS’ branding, look and feel on the mobile pages, Koch says. Now the mobile sites contain exactly the same content as the online version except in minor cases where HSUS may have, for example, an image that is too large to minimize well for mobile; in those few cases, the organization provides an alternate image, she says.

Because Moovweb automatically optimizes changes on the desktop site for the smartphone and tablet sites as The Humane Society of the United States makes them—and because mobile traffic continues to grow—HSUS now keeps mobile in mind when making changes on its desktop site, Koch says. For instance, it no longer adds content that requires Adobe System Inc.’s Flash software to load, because iPhones and iPads don’t support it, she says.

From her end, Koch says the web site operates like it was built with responsive web design techniques—that is, on a single base of code that automatically adjusts a site’s display according a viewer’s screen size. But HSUS doesn’t need to code its web site any differently than before, except for adding in the code snippet from Moovweb.

Nonprofits don't have the resources to rewrite their existing web assets, and they also need a way to quickly take advantage of new mobile experiences that consumers are demanding,” says Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer at Moovweb.

The vendor saves time and effort for clients by not requiring them to overhaul their entire sites into responsive design or start from scratch to make separate mobile sites, he says. A retailer client downloads the free Moovweb software development kit, or SDK, and installs it on a local server. The retailer points the SDK at its existing e-commerce site and creates a copy of the site locally. This copy is fully functional, having inherited 100% of the target site’s features, functions, content and business logic. Front-end developers then use the SDK and Moovweb’s front-end web language called Tritium to transform the e-commerce site into sites optimized for smartphones and tablets. Once completed, the Tritium version is pushed to Moovweb’s web-hosted infrastructure, where the desktop site is synced with the smartphone and tablet versions.

Koch declines to reveal how much HSUS paid Moovweb, but she says the project has paid for itself in the amount of time and money the organization has saved.

Moovweb ranks No. 6 among mobile commerce vendors in Internet Retailer’s Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers.

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