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How charity communicators can think mobile first

14 August 2012

The stats about mobile use speak for themselves. When Elizabeth Kessick, Head of Insight at JustGiving, spoke at Lasa’s recent mobile technology summit, she revealed that there are 1.8 mobiles for every person in the UK, and that 52% of people in the UK now have smartphones.

Right now, everyone I know in the sector is talking about mobile. Whether it’s Open Fundraising’s new PSMS system, which allows donors to donate regularly via mobiles or Amnesty International’s campaign to free Russian punk band Pussy Riot by asking people to text their support, an increasing amount of charities are placing mobile at the centre of their digital communications.

There is no doubt that the stats around mobile ownership and the potential size of mobile opportunities for charities are impressive. The American Red Cross raised $8milllion via text messages following their Haiti earthquake appeal, for example. But the way in which people use their mobiles is also interesting. Can you remember a time when your mobile wasn’t with you? My phone is my constant companion and I use it for everything from research to shopping. In her presentation at the Lasa mobile summit Elizabeth Kessick described mobile use as ‘snacktime’ with people scanning content whilst doing other things. Interestingly, mobile internet access is fairly steady throughout the days and weeks, whereas desktop internet access goes through peaks and troughs.

Charity communicators have to start thinking mobile first. There is a great opportunity for us to be the driving force in helping our charities engage with mobile. Our charities need to make the most of the benefits mobile offers or they could be left behind.

I’ve put together some tips for best practice, based on Lasa’s mobile summit:

  • Aim for mobile optimised web content. Have you checked what percentage of people are viewing your website and e-newsletters on mobiles? JustGiving estimate the average as a third of visits. If you haven’t already done so, it is time to create a mobile friendly version of your website. Macmillan and Save The Children are good examples of this. The trick is to strip your content down to the essentials, which means that you need to understand what is most important to your audience when they visit your site.
  • Integrate your web content with your fundraising activities. If your charity is fundraising via text (and 1 in 5 already are, according to JustGiving), then your website needs to be optimised for mobile once potential donors are directed there. Similarly, if you keep in contact with your supporters via e-newsletters, these should be mobile friendly too. Mobile is a key tool for fundraisers and it also needs to be part of the marketing mix. I’ve summarised some of the key points for fundraisers from the summit for the Institute of Fundraising.
  • Accessibility is a priority. As Robin Christopherson, head of inclusion at the computing charity AbilityNet told delegates at the summit, the disabled community are very reliant on mobile. You can find lots of resources about web accessibility on the Knowledgebase.

It’s time we helped our charities develop a mobile mindset. Are you in?

For a full round up of highlights and resources from the summit see the Lasa Knowledgebase.

Zoe Amar

founder and director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at and @zoeamar