Photo by OxMour
Maybe I'm jaded. But having been in the nonprofit technology since 1993, I've seen a predictable pattern of cycles with new tools and technology. It closely follows Gartner's Technology Hype Cycle
- Technology Trigger
- Inflated Expectations
- Trough of Disillusionment
- Slope of Enlightenment
- Plateau of Productivity
With nonprofits, the Trough of Disillusionment comes when we start to understand the real challenges in implementing a new technology and stop looking at as a panacea that will solve all our problems. Or be bailout for our nonprofit.
The Haiti crisis demonstrated that text to give fundraising can be a powerful tool, particularly as an "early responder" fundraising technique in disaster. But will the dramatic text fundraising that we saw the Red Cross experience translate to every non-profit that wants to add it to their tool bag?
I like the way that Allison Fine reflected on this question last week. How does she feel about text to give? Trepidatious.
Geoff Livingston has written a good piece on Mashable that throws a little cold water SMS/Text To Give Campaigns by pointing out the challenges and limitations. The reality is that there are challenges - cost, vendors, and other limitations.
The technology isn't cheap to set up. In fact, according to the post it can be expensive, anywhere from $3,000-10,000. And, just like other technology tools, like online credit card transactions, nonprofits end up paying a transaction fee of 5-10% back to the vendor. So, deciding to incorporate a SMS campaign should include a traditional nonprofit technology ROI analysis that analyzes the benefits, value, and financial analysis. It may not make sense for your nonprofit to get mobile
The set up cost is out of reach for many smaller/mid-sized nonprofits, and especially since the vendors require a minimum budget of $500,000 to have the right to purchase service. Geoff also points out that text donations are limited to small donations and organizations don't get the donor contact information, thus closing the door to ongoing engagement and relationship building not to mention potentially missing out on an important ROI - the lifetime value of a donor.
Geoff goes onto make a point that I find myself making over and over about the need to link the use of the tools to an overall communications and engagement strategy. He also encourages nonprofits to look at other ways to incorporate the use of mobile technology as part of a communications strategy or program delivery. (The place to look for lots of ideas and advice is MobileActive.
Allison Fine makes another good point: "It seems to me that relationship building with a first engagement being a cell phone number is going to be inherently difficult."
Geoff ends his piece with a point about looking at other options which may be the only choice for the smaller nonprofits. Recently, AppMakr rolled out its service that lets anyone create a
For me, the most interesting piece is looking to the future. When will we see a Network for Good for text fundraising campaigns? What are some of the best practices for incorporating mobile into your communications and engagement tool box?