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Five Reasons Why Nonprofit Communicators Need Smartphones

July 13, 2010

[tweetmeme] One in five Americans now access the Mobile Web daily. Smartphones are transforming the Internet and how individuals access the Web. This means nonprofits and their web communication strategies need to transform as well. Desktop and laptop computers have become essential tools for nonprofit communicators over the last decade, and now we are entering the era of smartphones – a tool that nonprofit communicators should definitely be writing into next year’s budget for key communications and development staff. Here are five reasons why:

1) To update social networking profiles on the go.

Nonprofit communicators function in many ways these days, and more so in the future, like reporters or a citizen press corps. You can send out Facebook Status Updates, Tweets, and even record videos and upload it to your YouTube channel while on location at events, fundraisers, conferences, or protests using a smartphone.

The era of only communicating with supporters from desktop computers at the office Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm is quickly coming to an end. Whether using smarthone Apps (iPhone Twitter App) or mobile websites (, the best of nonprofit communicators understand that once again the Internet is transforming dramatically and they will transform with it.

2) To experiment with location-based tools like Foursquare and Gowalla.

If your nonprofit wants online buzz, then you have be doing something different to get noticed. Geo-location social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla are where the early adopters are flocking to these days. Both have mobile websites (,, but the smartphones Apps work so much better.

3) To experiment with text messaging campaigns.

I think of text messaging as the new e-mail of the Mobile Web except that you are limited to 160 characters. Nonprofit communicators should be signing up for text messaging campaigns from other nonprofits and businesses to personally experience what the early adopters are doing. And if you want to launch your own text messaging campaign using a service like TextMarks or TextPlus, then you are going to need a mobile number to do so.

4) To experience mobile browsers.

The number of people using mobile browsers (like Opera Mini) is now growing faster than number of people using smartphone Apps, yet seemingly less than 1% of nonprofits have a mobile website on their To Do List. Nonprofits are quickly falling behind on this rapidly evolving, powerful web trend even though mobile websites can cost as little as $8 a month.

5) Because you shouldn’t have to use your personal mobile number to experiment with the Mobile Web.

It’s not going to work long term and it’s not fair (for lack of a better word) to make staff to use their personal mobile numbers and service plans for work. If not for individual staff, then at least one smartphone for the all communications and development staff to share as needed.  🙂

Related Links:
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Utilize Group Texting, Mobile Websites and Smartphone Apps
Mobile Technology for Nonprofit Organizations LinkedIn Group
10 Nonprofit Mobile Websites
10 Nonprofit Group Texting Campaigns
10 Types of Nonprofits That Absolutely Must Add Themselves to Foursquare

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2010 8:38 am

    Great post Heather! I’m sending it to the boss. 🙂

  2. July 17, 2010 2:01 am

    thanks for share 🙂

  3. August 5, 2010 12:02 pm

    Great post! I do all my work from my laptop & iPhone and I wouldn’t have it any other way – it allows me to do my job from any coffee shop or bar that has a patio & wifi! Plus, meeting with contacts & artists in my “office” makes it so much more casual & personal which I love!

  4. February 19, 2011 7:11 am

    To “update social network profiles on the go”? Very little in life needs to be transmitted immediately. There is rarely a significant difference in impact between updating immediately versus waiting until you get back to the office, or from your home. The odds are great that you are not one of the few people on the planet that everyone waits to hear from, or about, with bated breath. Breaking news is an obvious exception, but no one needs a smartphone to transmit it.

    To “experiment with location-based tools like Foursquare”? Really? Foursquare is just the latest fad, and it’s going to have a hard time growing into something as profitable as Facebook or other social networks. To quote Gertrude Stein’s description of Oakland, “There is no there there” with Foursquare.

    To “experiment with text-messaging campaigns”? I have a five-year-old mobile fone with Internet access through Verizon that I never use. I don’t text, but if I chose to, I can send and receive texts with it just fine, and I can make videos and send them as well.

    To “experience mobile browsers”? Granted, my old fone has a tiny screen compared to smartphones, but Web sites optimized for mobile display tend to be primarily text, so I don’t think I’m missing out on much of any impressive, graphic-design impact. But this is your most telling point. (See separate post below.)

    “Because you shouldn’t have to use your personal mobile number to experiment with the Mobile Web”? My old fone works just fine, and any employer that wants to save money can buy others just like them for practically pennies on the dollar compared to the much bigger expense of a smartphone.

  5. February 19, 2011 7:11 am

    These quibbles aside, I agree that mobile devices are going to be huge for marketing and PR. The “third screen” is poised to become the next great online platform, and it’s already much bigger overseas (especially Japan) than here in the USA. In 2007, due in part to their novelty, mobile-commercial messages sustained a phenomenal 95% open rate. The thumb economy is huge—more than 4 trillion texts were sent in 2008—and is only going to increase as mobile users get used to having their devices become advertising platforms (as TV and the Internet did before mobile’s advent). And, within just a few years, companies that don’t have Web sites optimized for mobile-device display will be struggling to play catch-up with their competitors.

    But I think nonprofits would be far better advised to generate buzz by creating their own apps and offering useful content through mobile-optimized sites than by simply being available within geolocation networks such as Foursquare.

    Fone apps are going to be increasingly popular, effective and well worth pursuing for branding purposes.

    A better way for nonprofits to stand out in the new thumb economy is to go beyond simple texted solicitations or fundraising appeals. Nonprofits could send SMS (text) news alerts on a variety of subscriber-selected topics (including announcements of anything that might appear on the regular Web site or be promoted through normal marketing, PR and advertising, such as surveys, special events, etc.), not only to clients but to the press as well. Anything that might be podcasted can be transformed into a value-added text.

    They also could use SMS for customer-relations management normally done over the Internet via the Web or e-mail. The member texts a code word to a designated number and receives texted help & info files—coping and health tips for certain situations and conditions; archived tip sheets and guides; meeting dates and locations of local groups; sources for professional help, etc. Companies used to offer these sorts of things through their phone menus, but few organizations have repurposed them to SMS yet.

    As for the purported benefits of GPS marketing, forget Foursquare—augmented reality is going to transform that nascent niche. Remember how virtual salespeople appeared in front of the fugitive Tom Cruise in Spielberg’s “Minority Report”? That’s just one potential application for branding and product promotion, and pioneering apps like GoldRun are just the tip of the AR iceberg. The implications for political campaigns, nonprofit branding and CSR are staggering, as Fast Company points out: “How Brands Sell Customers Using Something That Isn’t There.” (


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