If you’re like most people working at a nonprofit, you probably had a “Holy Mobile!” moment in January, 2010, when an outpouring of donations followed the devastating Haiti quake. This, you expected.

But what you may not have anticipated was that $41m of these dollars flowed through mobile phones. The Red Cross received 4.1 million & 95% of which were from first-time donors.

You breathed in… hard. Did you miss mobile? Where did all of these donors come from? Did a fantastic fund-raising opportunity pass you by? How do you jump on the bandwagon?

If any of these thoughts raced through your head — or if any are racing now — not to worry. Mobile giving is just about five years young. There’s plenty of time to put together a thoughtful mobile fundraising strategy.

Best of all, many of the kinks have been worked out. There’s never been a better time to start a mobile campaign.

How does it work?

As it turns out, The Red Cross used but a few common methods to generate revenue from mobile phone owners. These methods are:

1.’Push’ message warmers

2. App donations

3. In-app-advertising



1. ‘Push’ message warmers

Here’s a riddle for you. How can you use a mobile phone to fundraise without collecting funds via the mobile phone?

The answer should be reassuring to those of you who like to think holistically about your fundraising strategy: use ‘Push’ messages to keep supporters warm.

By sending just a couple of ‘Push’ messages per month, you can keep potential donors excited about your cause and primed for your big yearly ask. In a campaign run by the Humane Society, supporters who received a ‘Push’ message donated online with an increased response rate of 77%.

2. App donations

If you live in a city populated by smartphone fanatics, it won’t surprise you that the number of people accessing the Web from their phones continues to double year over year. Depending on the configuration of your current website, it may be a relatively simple process to publish a “mobile friendly” version. The app is directly linked to your website so you can ask for donations using exactly the same system that you ask for money on your web site: via a big “Donate Now” button. Your donors can then pay using an identical transaction process.

3. In-App-Advertising

This category is frothy and highly intriguing. Over the past year, a series of for/non-profit partnerships have developed apps that promote businesses in exchange for donations.

What’s smart about this is that local businesses can advertise on your app for a set amount per month as a donation. So not only will you increase donations but it will also cover the total cost of the app. Even better, for nonprofits, you don’t need to know much about mobile phone technology to take advantage of this revenue stream.

There you have it: 3 ways to use mobile phones to rake in cash for your nonprofit.

None of these methods is as easy as yard work. They all require a concerted effort, smart folks, and some financial investment. Moreover, it’s advisable to consider each of these opportunities in the context of your broader strategic plan.

There’s little doubt, however, that over the next several years, mobile devices will continue to overtake personal computers as our primary access points to the Internet (as they have already done in many countries around the world). Now is a great time to start outlining and implementing your mobile strategy.