Mobile Marketing Strategies for Non-Profits: Texting for a Good Cause

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 5 min read

It is nothing less than amazing to consider how successful many non-profit organizations have been thanks to their innovative use of mobile marketing technology. Religious organizations, cultural organizations, environmental groups etc. are able to tap into this amazing technology that helps people to donate quickly, easily and securely on the spot. One way this is accomplished is through the incorporation of the PayPal “Donate” button, via which people can donate via their handheld devices while at a fair or festival or celebration, if the organization has the proper advertising materials on hand, which can promote either a QR code or a mobile-optimized website.

QR codes are certainly not a magical marketing “silver bullet,” but for the time being, they are novel and exciting – two excellent prerequisites for succeeding in our highly ad-cluttered world.

The American Cancer Society used QR codes to promote its Making strides for Breast Cancer walk. The QR code is featured on a bus shelter ad and links the “code snapper” to a mobile phone formatted website with more information on the event – and various opportunities to get more involved. And the Oral Cancer Foundation recently used QR codes to promote disease awareness at a major surf event. At “Surf City,” OCF reps handed out stickers, t-shirts, and even temporary tattoos bearing a QR code that linked to a web page containing advisory information.

As Holly Ross, executive director of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, recently blogged, “While the Red Cross made text-to-give campaigns famous after the Haiti earthquake, there are a variety of additional opportunities to use mobile to engage your audience in a cause. In fact, it doesn’t take an expensive investment in a custom built application to make mobile work . . . .
Non-profits, both large and small, are using mobile to educate, activate, and engage audiences of all sizes.” Ms. Ross also notes five excellent examples of non-profits “rocking mobile” for social good:

WNYC and NYT Bird Map Did you know that over 355 bird species live or spend time in New York City throughout the year? To highlight the avian side of the city, WNYC and The New York Times asked their listeners and readers to text BIRD to 30644 and share their favorite bird-watching spots. Results are compiled in an online map. Hundreds of people have responded so far, with the Red Cardinal topping the list of most-spotted winged creatures.

California Teacher’s Association In California, where over 40,000 teachers have been laid off due to severe budget cuts, the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) is fighting to preserve teaching jobs and restore other education funding. CTA is able to text its supporters and, when replied to, automatically connect them to their state legislator via a phone call. In the first few days of the campaign, hundreds of calls have been made because of the texts, saving CTA time and money compared to the traditional phone tree method.

Alliance for Climate Education If you want today’s teens to remember to do something, you need to text them. That’s what the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is doing. When ACE visits a school to present an educational assembly, instead of encouraging the audience to silence their mobile phones, they ask the kids to take them out and text in a pledge – one activity they will do to make the environment better. Students are also asked for their email addresses that are integrated directly into the organization’s database, allowing them to follow up with each student about their pledge in multiple ways. So far, over 90,000 students have texted pledges and the organization is looking to integrate mobile into other campaigns, including a Halloween haiku contest.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Sexual health isn’t an issue most teenagers find easy to ask questions about, but having the right answers about it can change and even save lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is making it even easier for teens to access information (and services) about delaying sex, birth control, STD prevention and treatment, emergency contraception, sexual orientation, pregnancy testing, etc. Spots on MTV and banners on the PPFA mobile site encourage teens seeking support to text the organization with questions, which are answered by trained professionals who point to information and, in some cases, can book the teens for an appointment at their local clinic — all via text.

The Marine Mammal Center If you’ve ever visited San Francisco, chances are you went to Pier 39 and heard (or perhaps even saw) the famous sea lions. The Marine Mammal Center (MMC) wanted to capitalize on the popularity of these creatures to educate a wider audience about their work to rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals. Using signs at the end of the pier, MMC offered new text subscribers a free seal ringtone. Subscribers got the ringtone, as well as an invitation to visit the nearby center. So far, they’ve recruited nearly 1,500 supporters to the cause.

“When people get online now, they are increasingly using their phone instead of a laptop or computer,” says Doug Plank, CEO of Mobilecause. “And when you look at the history of online giving, how quickly it was adopted by non-profits and donors, mobile is outpacing it. While mobile campaigns have begun to produce impressive results for causes on [their] own, it can be even more impressive as part of an integrated campaign that also includes email and even direct mail.”