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.

More Supporters and Donors Read Your Newsletters on Small Screens

Mobile use is at an all-time high. Nonprofits of all sizes must consider the impact and the opportunity to better engage with their supporters, donors, and fans through smartphones with small screens or tablet devices.

An Opportunity to Grab Their Attention

Screen size aside, the issue here is attention span opportunity. Your supporters are reading your email or seeing your social media posts at all times of the day, when it’s most convenient for them. This could be during their morning commute, between two meetings, while waiting in line for a lunch order, or during a focused time when they’re cleaning out their inbox.

Rethink and Redesign the 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 Mobile Simple, Direct, and Quick

Mobile design and mobile user experience are 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 is also a mobile-friendly experience.

Optimize Your Basic Email Format

Consider your basic email formats that you may be using to communicate regularly with supporters and fans who have opted in to receive email from you. Your basic email template should have a lean, single-column design, with minimal branding and navigation at the top, so that viewers can quickly assess the content and the ask.

Images should be small in size and zoomed in enough for smaller screens. Clickable buttons should be easy to find and large enough to touch.

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 email will look on a variety of mobile devices. If needed, discuss the mobile design of your email templates with your email service provider, so you can understand the options available to you.

Offer Fewer and More Direct Choices in Emails

Take this moment to simplify the content of your email communications so that you are offering fewer and more direct choices to your readers. We do ourselves a disservice and frustrate our readers when email messages are too long and have too many links to content on the web. Emails with dozens of clickable options may seem clever — however, the reality of real-world mobile experience is that people checking their email while picking up their lunch order only have time for one or two choices at most.

Video Shines Within Mobile-Friendly Designs

Video plays a unique role with mobile messaging and will really shine within mobile-friendly designs. Embedded videos can easily be enlarged, rotated, and viewed, thereby making the most of your mobile design template.

What Happens After the Click?

The final opportunity to consider is what happens after the click from an email or social media post. Web landing pages also need to be mobile friendly, which may require a deeper rethink of your website and any registration pages you may use with your various online services. A top priority is web landing pages that are arrived at from clicking on links in your emails and your social media posts.

The mobile experience means respecting and harnessing the attention span that an individual has given you for that precious moment. What you get in return is the opportunity to deepen your engagement with supporters, which is your most critical goal.

Michael Stein has been a writer, photographer and digital strategist to progressive social causes for over two decades, and strives to help organizations succeed with marketing and fundraising in a multichannel and multiscreen world.  He is the author of three books and numerous articles chronicling the rise of digital marketing, mobile, and online fundraising.  He works as a consultant and coach to nonprofits, foundations and educators worldwide, and can be found on the Web at and on Twitter at @mstein63