Happy November fellow techies! As we draw closer to the end of 2012, many of us often take a moment to reflect upon our achievements and, in some cases, disappointments over the course of the last year. The same holds true for the nonprofit industry.

Just last month Blackbaud released its annual “State of the Nonprofit Industry” or “SONI” report.  And since the release of the report seemed to coincide with my period of self-reflection, I felt it a moral obligation to read the report and compare its results to my view of the world. Obviously, most organizations had it pretty rough in 2012. But what I found most intriguing in the report were some of the statistics surrounding nonprofits’ use of interactive technologies and the impact these technologies have on an organization’s underlying “bottom line”.

What surprised me most was the fact that online donations still represent only a small fraction of total donation income, in most cases constituting less than 5% of an organization’s total donation revenue. So why is it that the use of mobile technologies in general operations and fundraising is expected to double in the next 12 months?  Or, how about explaining why social networking is one of the fastest growing fundraising methods despite the fact that very few organizations feel it is an effective method for donor recruitment? On the surface, it would seem that investments in interactive technologies (both in time and money) don’t seem to provide much of a return.

Here are a few more data points from the SONI report that I found very interesting and give a little better insight into how organizations are spending resources on technology efforts over the next 12 months:

  • More than 40% of nonprofits plan to enable their website for mobile browsing
  • Roughly 45% of organizations plan to use QR codes to bring attention to an organizations mission or quick access to their donation page
  • More than one-third of nonprofits plan to optimize their email messages for mobile devices
  • 44% of nonprofit organizations (on average) plan to use mobile devices to collect funds when outside the office
  • Approximately half (50%) of all nonprofits plan to leverage SMS/text giving services

So why are nonprofits making investments in these areas despite the relatively low ROI? Well, it has to do with several factors.

First and foremost, the proportion of organizations’ online giving to traditional giving methods is increasing. Roughly 55% of all participating organizations reported that online giving was up in 2012 over previous years. Secondly, the costs to implement these technologies is relatively small. Custom-made mobile websites are surprisingly inexpensive to have developed. You can have QR Codes generated for free. The costs of optimizing email for mobile devices is mainly in human effort. Using mobile devices to collect funds runs an average of 3% per transaction and SMS/text based giving runs about 5% per transaction (based on popular service offerings). Finally, you have to look at what’s happening to the mobile industry in general to understand why nonprofits are making investiments in mobile technologies:

  • In 2012, 10% of all worldwide Internet traffic was mobile browsing. That’s a 162% increase (up from 3.81%) since 2010 according to an article by Pingdom.
  • Digital Marketing Analysis firm eMarketer found that 36% of all emails around the world are now being opened on mobile devices
  • One in five Americans access the Internet daily
  • As of 2012, one in two mobile suscribers have a smartphone
  • Mobile phone Internet usage is expected to exceed desktop Internet usage by 2014
  • By 2017, the total number of mobile phones is expected to exceed the total number of desktops/laptops

I’ll leave you with an interesting infographic from Microsoft Tag about the mobile phone market that should compel you to investigate your own mobile engagement strategy!

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