What Mobile Means for Your Organization

Find out what a recent survey says about smartphone users and what it means for your association.

Experts had predicted that by 2011 more smartphones would be sold than PCs. However, they were wrong; the change came earlier than expected. In the last quarter of 2010, 100.9 million smartphones were sold compared to 92.1 million PCs. With more people relying on smartphones, nonprofits and associations have to start thinking about what this means when it comes to communicating with their members, if they haven't already.

SmartOnline recently asked 277 worldwide mobile phone users not only how they use their phones but also how they may interact with the different organizations they're part of. It released the results in a whitepaper titled "A Mobile World: how your supporters are using their Smartphones and why you should care." Here's a glimpse of the results and what they may mean to your organization.

Mobile Websites

How frustrated would members be if they tried to access your website on their smartphones and it didn't work or wasn't optimized for mobile?

The results show: Respondents were asked how they would react if they came across a website on their smartphone that wasn't mobile friendly. Thirty-five percent say they would leave the website and forget about it or get frustrated and disengage with the website immediately. Forty percent say they would open the website later on their computer.

What it means: While 40 percent say they would open the website later on their computer, how many times do you think this actually happens? Organizations need to grab members, donors, and prospects as soon as they can and as easily as they can. A basic mobile website is an easy way to do this.

Reactions to a site that is not optimized for a mobile phone:

Open it later on a computer:


Leave the website and forget about it:


Zoom in and read information with difficulty:


Get frustrated and disengage with the site immediately:




Nonprofits and associations use email marketing extensively to send out important updates and to tell people how their organizations are doing financially and how they can volunteer and register for events.

The results show: When asked how often they open email on the smartphones as opposed to their computer, 72 percent of respondents say they open email more often on their phones or equally on their phones and computers.

What it means: Organizations must optimize all the emails they send for smartphones. Doing so allows people to read what you have to say immediately. The simplest way is to create a "view on mobile device" link at the top of the email and redirect users to a simple, single-column view of the message, containing important information and maybe an image or two.

Mobile Social Networking

More and more people are accessing social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook through their smartphones rather than their computers.

The results show: Similar to the email question, 63 percent of respondents say they open social networking apps or sites more often on their phones or equally on both phones and computers.

What it means: Many nonprofits and associations are constantly posting social media updates on important, mission-critical events to their followers along with calls to action asking for feedback or engagement. How often do you think these same followers access these calls to action through their smartphones?

Mobile Apps

The burning question: Do members prefer to use a mobile website or a mobile application?

The results show: 67 percent of respondents say they prefer a (native) mobile application over a mobile website when it comes to utility functions, and 62 percent say they prefer an application over a website for social networking features. Fifty-three percent of respondents say they prefer an application over a website when it comes to making their jobs more productive, and 26 percent said they would prefer a mobile application to participate in fundraising events or virtual events for a cause and to advocate for a cause.

What it means: Considering how smartphone sales are skyrocketing, these numbers will likely increase, so nonprofits and associations have to be prepared to deliver what their members are looking for. Evaluate where your organization stands before jumping on the mobile-app bandwagon. Understand what information you want to share with them through a mobile app. What ability do you want to provide your members with through these applications?

What Do They Want in a Nonprofit Mobile App?

When asked this question, 59 percent say they would like to receive real-time notifications on important updates. This may require using a native app that can utilize a smartphone's push-messaging features to provide this functionality. Additionally, 51 percent said they would like to participate in events or fundraisers, 51 percent would like to read and share social media posts, and 34 percent would like to advocate for the organization.