Mobile Giving Experimentation

By David Dickinson, Online Manager at Wisconsin Public Television, Station Advisory Council Member
As Teresa mentioned, everyone was talking about mobile at iMA this year. I attended a session that provided a fascinating discussion on the challenges of mobile giving in the traditional public broadcasting membership model.

Why does mobile matter so much? Even here in Wisconsin, with large areas of our TV broadcast area not covered by 3G or fast broadband, mobile traffic accounts for 10% of our website audience. According to Nielsen, the top situational activity for tablets and smartphones is "second screening" while watching TV.

The gold standard transaction model held up in the iMA session was an app store purchase. You find an app you want, you press install and enter your password - that's pretty much it. Takes only seconds.

Apple has banned donation functionality in their app store. The Android market is less strict, and there's always PayPal, but an ideal solution would work across platforms and not be limited to PayPal users.

We've stripped down our Convio-powered mobile donation form to the bare minimum. We decided to ditch our clunky gift selection process - we believe in Google's recommendation to prioritize content for mobile and not attempt to provide full desktop functionality. Even so, our page still takes over two minutes to fill out. And there are always users who wish to remain anonymous or don't want to fill out a form on their phone.

The problem for public broadcasting is many stations rely on a relationship model for receiving and building gifts. We want enough information to be able to make our case for why membership matters, and hopefully increase mission awareness (and donations) over time.

Text-to-donate provides the immediacy that mobile users expect, but it has significant drawbacks for stations. Donations are limited to $5 or $10, can take months to come in, and don't provide the baseline of information needed to establish a relationship with the donor.

We want to test a text-to-pledge model that may offer the best of both worlds. It will provide users the ability to text a number with a pledge for any amount. We'll then contact them to fulfill payment and welcome them to become a member if they choose.

We'll funnel half our mobile donation traffic to our existing page, and half the traffic to a new page asking for a text-to-pledge. After a few months, it will be interesting to see the results. We'll be sure to share back anything we learn.

Have you tried text-to-give or text-to-pledge? Have you ever donated on your phone - what was the experience like? Feel free to post your experiences below.  

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