Through an arrangement with TechSoup, PND is pleased to offer a series of articles about the effective use of technology by nonprofits.

Seize the Opportunity for Mobile Engagement in 2016

Seize the Opportunity for Mobile Engagement in 2016

We've reached an important tipping point in how mobile is being used. Blackbaud has reported recently that mobile conversions in 2015 have reached a new record, with 19 percent of donations and 23 percent of event registrations made from a mobile device. In my own work with nonprofits of various sizes, I'm seeing email readership rates of 40 percent from mobile devices. Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization re-thinks its communications and marketing efforts for a mobile world:

More supporters and donors are reading your newsletters on small screens. Mobile use is at an all-time high, and nonprofits of all sizes must consider the the opportunities it presents to better engage, through smartphones and tablet devices, with their supporters, donors, and fans.

Mobile is an opportunity to grab their attention. Screen size aside, the issue here is attention span. Your supporters are reading your emails or seeing your social media posts when it's most convenient for them. That could be during their morning commute, between meetings, while waiting in line for lunch, or when they're cleaning out their inbox.

You need to rethink and redesign the mobile experience. This new reality of mobile use means nonprofits need to rethink and redesign the mobile experience that they're offering to their supporters, donors, and fans. Declining click-through rates on emails and lower conversion rates on online content can be reversed and energized through a focused effort to seize the mobile opportunity.

Make it simple, direct, and quick. Your mobile design and mobile user experience should be simple, direct, and quick. Fonts are larger and buttons are easier to click. Single column designs offer a simple browsing experience with clearer and fewer choices for the reader. After a click from an email or social media post, landing on a Web page should also be a mobile-friendly experience.

Optimize your basic email template. Consider the basic email template you are using to communicate regularly with supporters and fans who have opted in to receive messages from you. It should have a lean, single-column design, with minimal branding and navigation at the top, so that viewers can quickly assess the content and/or the ask. Images should be small and zoomed in enough for smaller screens. Clickable buttons should be easy to find and large enough to tap.

Investigate what your email looks like on mobile devices. Use an email usability testing service such as Email on Acid or Litmus to determine how your emails will look on a variety of mobile devices. If needed, discuss the design of your email templates with your email service provider so you better understand the options available to you.

Offer fewer and more direct choices in emails. Use the shift to mobile as an opportunity to simplify the content of your email communications so you're offering fewer and more direct choices to readers. We do our organizations a disservice and frustrate our readers when email messages are too long and have too many outbound links. Emails with dozens of clickable options may seem clever, but the reality of the real-world mobile experience is that people checking their email while waiting in line to order lunch at the deli only have time to follow one or two links, at most.

Video shines within mobile-friendly designs. Embedded video plays a unique role in mobile messaging and can really shine within a mobile-friendly design, since it's easy to enlarge, rotate, and watch.

What happens after the click? The final thing to consider is what happens after the click from an email or social media post. Web landing pages, like your emails, need to be mobile friendly, which may require a deeper rethink of your website and registration pages. And your top priority should be the pages that readers and supporters arrive at when they follow links in your emails and social media posts.

The mobile experience means respecting and harnessing the shorter attention span of individuals who are on the go. In return, you get an opportunity to deepen your engagement with those supporters, which after all is the point of your communications efforts. If you haven't already, try some of the things outlined above. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Michael Stein is the author of three books and numerous articles chronicling the rise of digital marketing and fundraising. He currently works as a freelance digital strategist and coach to nonprofits nationwide and can be found on Twitter at @mstein63.