Photo Jon Gos
If technology is used in the right way, it generally improves quality of life of people. But that’s not all, it may also help make new enterprises possible, also to NGOs performing tasks that may originally seem far apart from advanced technology.
Mobile technology is one of the fields where the end user benefits most from innovation, which is why it does not surprise that, according to a study by State of the Nonprofit Industry, in 2013 the use of mobile phone related technology in NGOs will double. Mobile phone technology allows NGOs to reduce costs, help more effectively and, above all, improve communication with their donors.
The study mentioned above concludes that the majority of NGOs uses mobile technology to keep in touch more closely with their donors, because this helps them raise more money. This is due to the fact that nowadays NGOs generally are subject to increased scrutiny by some of their donors and proximity is a virtue greatly appreciated by them.
Among their strategies to improve mobile marketing, NGOs are using donations made by SMS, optimize their websites so they load correctly on smartphones and even use QR Codes, which, apart from attracting attention, direct the users to the page explaining their mission while at the same time providing access to the donations page.
The results of these actions are impressive. According to the study “Why aren’t nonprofits going mobile?”, by HubPages, between July 2011 and July 2012 NGOs raised 120% more money through mobile applications. Nonetheless, mobile marketing continues to be an issue with low priority for these kinds of organizations.
This increase in fundraising is caused by, as a study by Pew Internet claims, 50% of the donors accessing NGO websites and their mails from their smartphones and 40% already making donations from their mobile. And although online donations in many cases remain a minority, this is the sector where the highest growth rates are obtained.
The impact of mobile technology is not limited to NGOs as institutions itself; it also affects their volunteers and aid workers. Smartphones and simple mobile phones are used by them to perform basic tasks like email or calls “on-site” and other more complex actions using smartphone apps.
An example for this is a very useful application which provides support in getting organized quickly in case of a catastrophe. Global Emergency Overview is an application which allows NGOs to add data and documents as well as contact their donors and present specific needs. It was recently awarded by the OFDA. Another successful application is Women Mobile Lifeline Channel, a mobile channel which provides support for indian women covering health and family planning issues.
The most inconsistent situation can be found once more in Africa, a continent which could benefit greatly from mobile technology and where many NGOs are making enormous efforts. Although Africa is the continent with the lowest number of connected users, around 540 millions, which is only about half the population, it has great potential to grow and it does so taking giant steps: It is expected that it will grow by 7% until the year 2020. And actually, there are already a number of projects working in this direction which are – among many other activities – improving communication in rural areas, making payments across borders easier and promoting education.
Lack of resources or other, more pressing matters cause NGOs to not always give priority to integrating advanced technology in their work, even if they could benefit from it. Luckily, in this case the figures are that obvious causing more and more NGOs to make increased use of mobile technology.