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Three Ways Nonprofits Can Pioneer m-Advocacy

June 7, 2011

[tweetmeme] The time is ripe for the early adopters in the nonprofit sector to embrace m-Advocacy, otherwise known as mobile advocacy. Odds are a year from now pitches to subscribe or join “Mobile Action Networks” will be  commonly seen in Facebook Status Updates, Tweets, blogs posts, homepages, and e-newsletter subject lines. As social media taught us, those nonprofits who act quickly and embrace emerging trends tend to experience the highest success rate, and similar to the rise of e-advocacy and “E-mail Action Networks” beginning in 2000-01, the nonprofit sector is on the brink of transitioning their e-advocacy efforts to the Mobile Web.

Though it doesn’t exist yet, it is hard to fathom that mobile-optimized petitions are not in the works at petition sites like or Care2, or that an unknown, yet-to-be-launched new service solely dedicated to m-advocacy and the Mobile Web is coming soon. Well-known e-advocacy vendors like Convio, Democracy in Action, and Blackbaud will likely also soon add mobile advocacy to their list of services as well. At least I hope so. Mobile Web traffic has grown faster over the last few years than most analysts expected and is set to surpass desktop by 2014, and text messaging is on track to hit 10 trillion text messages sent by the end of this year. When you compare that to only one trillion text messages sent in 2008, it’s clear that text messaging is growing faster than any other Web-based communication method out there today, and yet it is a tool almost entirely untapped by the nonprofit sector.

However, I believe that’s about to change dramatically. As more group text messaging and Mobile Web vendors flood the market, the price of early adoption will become more manageable and thus accessible to more nonprofits. In a few weeks I’ll outline how your nonprofit can launch your own Mobile Action Network on a small budget, but for now, please just ponder the concept and let it ruminate. Below I focus on mobile-optimized petitions, but calls to action can also be tap-to-call elected officials, text-to-give pitches, donation reminders, and/or volunteer requests. The idea is to build an action network of at first hundreds, and then thousands, of on-call mobile activists ready to use their their mobile phones for social good from anywhere at anytime when the need arises. That said, in terms of online dollars raised for your nonprofit, e-mail is still queen and activism reasons aside, becoming a pioneer of m-advocacy to help build your e-newsletter list is a smart, uber timely move.

1) Mobile-optimized petitions sent via group text messaging.
It was a only few weeks ago that I received my first text message from a nonprofit that linked to a mobile website. Soon (any day now, hopefully) I know that I will finally receive a text message from a nonprofit that will link to a mobile-optimized petition urging me to "Take Action!". Until petition sites or e-advocacy vendors make it affordable and easy to create mobile-optimized petitions (it’s just a matter of time), you will have to hard-code your own. However, the question I want to know is: Who will be the first nonprofit to do it? My bet is on PETA, the Humane Society, the SEIU, Planned Parenthood, Oceana, the ASPCA, or the Nature Conservancy because most either have a mobile website and/or text alert campaigns already set up or in the works.
2) Mobile-optimized petitions “signed” through smartphone apps.
PETA’s new iPhone App is the only nonprofit app I have opened more than twice. Why? Because it is useful! When I have a few moments of free time, I’ll open their app to check for new mobile action alerts, and with one tap I can easily take action (i.e., sign a petition and send an e-mail) to help prevent animal cruelty. Personally, I think it is the best example of m-advocacy out there, but I’d also like to see the app converted into a mobile website so it can be accessed by any Web-enabled mobile phone and linked to in group text alerts. That said, bravo PETA!
3) Mobile-optimized petitions accessed through QR Codes.
The Big Wild is a Canadian nonprofit that pioneered m-advocacy through a QR Code campaign. They launched the first-ever mobilized petition (that I know of) in August 2010. I am not sure if QR Codes will stick long-term  – voice recognition technology on mobile phones has a bright future (speaking in lieu of scanning), but for now QR Code campaigns for m-advocacy are a blank slate for the early adopters.

Related Links:
Webinar: How Nonprofits Can Successfully Utilize Mobile Websites, Group Text Messaging, and Text-to-Give Technology
22 Nonprofit Mobile Websites
10 Nonprofit Group Text Messaging Campaigns

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2011 6:09 am

    Really great article. Looking forward to seeing what the future holds

  2. June 7, 2011 9:30 am

    This is so inspiring.

  3. June 10, 2011 12:48 pm

    Some very good ideas here. I made a prediction a month ago: “The nonprofit organization that hires a developer to create an accessible, intuitive, and fun application for storytelling and fundraising is going to own the social media subset of online giving.” (

    In that vein, I like what I see in the PETA app for instant advocacy and donations. Not sure everyone should adopt the “points” approach, because gamification of advocacy and giving may conflict with some organization missions, but it raises an interesting question:

    How do you incentivize your audience to open your app a second time?

  4. July 14, 2011 10:23 am

    Great article! I think you are very much on target with your prediction. One thing to point out is that PETA has already launched a Reply Y to take action text campaign. No form to fill out, no website to go to, just reply Y to a text message to have a message sent on your behalf. The one caveat is that activists have to already be opted into PETAs activist network (and have their contact info on file) in order to participate. But, I don’t think action taking can get any easier.

    To learn more about this campaign (and other ideas around how to expand the reach of advocacy through the use of APIs), check out this presentation from NTC:

  5. July 26, 2012 2:26 pm

    With broader audience means broader ways of sending messages… With the advent of technology, one way to send it out is through mobile… I love the way you explore this ways of sending advocacy from all nonprofit consulting.


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