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Zoe Amar: Seven reasons why charities should be using mobile technology

Third Sector Online, 19 July 2012

Zoe Amar

Zoe Amar

There are 1.8 mobiles for every person in the UK, according to JustGiving, which means the sector has a huge opportunity to reach potential donors

Earlier this week, Lasa’s mobile technology summit showcased insights and best practice from mobile experts and leading charities. Here are some of the key issues from the event that every charity should know about mobile, from fundraising and accessibility to staff bringing their own devices to work.

1 Mobile is huge In her presentation about the fundraising site's latest research, Elizabeth Kessick, head of insight at JustGiving, said that 87 per cent of the world’s population used mobile phones. Many of them are using mobiles to access the web, a strong trend in the developing world. Fifty-two per cent of the UK's population has smartphones and with 28 per cent of people having used mobile for shopping, the opportunities for fundraising are impressive. For example, Comic Relief recently raised more than £15m through text donations.

2 Think how people use mobile Kessick compared this to ‘snacking’ – how mobile users often scan content quickly while killing time. Mobile-friendly content therefore needs to appeal to users likely to be viewing it in a distracted state on a small screen, often while they are doing something else. This is why mobile can work particularly well for disaster appeals – people often reach instinctively for their phones to keep up to date with developments.

3 Mobile-friendly web content is key Kessick said there was a one-in-three chance that people are accessing your website through a mobile phone. Paul de Gregorio, head of mobile at the media agency Open Fundraising, urged delegates to pare their mobile content down to the bare essentials, such as Macmillan’s mobile site. 

Mobile phone4 Mobile fundraising has galvanised traditional channels For example, De Gregorio explained how many successful charity mobile campaigns used press, adverts on trains and on the backs of toilet doors. A combination of text-response and TV adverts can work particularly well, he said, such as Unicef’s Soccer Aid campaign. 

5 Consider how mobile content works for different devices. Philip Anthony, director of the IT consultancy Co-Operative Systems, recommended that charities should view their mobile content on as many devices as possible. This is also important when testing accessibility, he said.

6 Accessibility is vital Robin Christopherson, head of inclusion at the computing charity AbilityNet, explained how mobiles were particularly important for the disabled community, often used for everything from shopping and information sharing to browsing. QR codes are widely consumed by the disabled community too, he said, particularly those who are blind.

7 Mobile security is a key issue for charities More staff are working on their own mobile devices, not least during the Olympics. Paulette Elliott, managing director of computer security company Huduma Ltd, said that charities should insist on their staff using PINs to protect their organisational data. She described how O2 had a specific ‘bring your own device’ staff policy for the Olympics.

The summit closed with a plenary session where speakers and delegates discussed what charities could do better with mobile. Suggestions included a shared resource for charities about using mobile (which would also be applicable to those on tight budgets), encouraging the sector to be more innovative in mobile and educating funders about SMS donations. At Lasa, we will be exploring how we might take some of these ideas forward.

At the event, Co-Operative Systems' Anthony described mobile as the "do anything platform". How will charities use it next? More importantly, is your charity making the most of mobile right now?

Zoe Amar is head of marketing and business development at Lasa 

Hear the Audioboos from the event and view the Storify

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