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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofits leverage mobile technology for greater mission impact?

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Technological advancements have fundamentally changed the way people live, and they will continue to do so. These changes have significant consequences for how organizations connect with donors, clients, partners, and employees. According to Pew Research Center, a whopping 96 percent of Americans now own a cell phone, and the share that own smartphones is now 81 percent—up from just 35 percent in 2011.

Roughly one in five Americans have abandoned broadband Internet altogether and now exclusively use their mobile device. Notably, this isn’t just a trend for younger generations. 96 percent of those aged 30-49 own smartphones along with 79 percent of 50-64 year olds. In an article in Nonprofit Quarterly, Holly Ross said society’s implementation of technology has altered expectations of responsiveness, internal visibility, and the lure of newness and innovation. Bottom-line: the nonprofit sector must adapt.

Leveraging technology is about strategically selecting tools that will advance an organization’s mission. Mobile technology includes all portable communication devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or smartwatches, that connect to Internet or cellular data and can be used to increase trust and transparency, fundraise, story-tell, and work more efficiently.

Organizations must execute a thorough assessment of constituents and their preferences along with organizational goals, resources, and strategies. Whether it’s texting, responsive websites, applications, or cloud computing, mobile tools can be tailored to match each organization’s market and needs.

Responsive Website

According to Statista, the percentage of website visitors on mobile has been steadily increasing over the past ten years and has climbed to 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide being generated through mobile phones. As online shopping and entertainment portals raise the standard of expectation, nonprofits must consider the user experience if they hope to stay relevant. Speed is a priority for users. According to Jason Spero, studies have shown that “53 percent of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load.”


Email has traditionally served as the primary medium of communication between nonprofits and their clients, volunteers, and donors. However, only 20 percent of emails are opened compared to 98 percent of texts, making it 750 percent more effective than email according to Organizations are better able to start conversations with stakeholders through text as indicated by its 45 percent response rate compared to the meager 6 percent response rate of email, according to Sophorn Chhay on A variety of price structures make this tool accessable for organizations of every size.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the delivery of server data, software, databases, and intelligence over the Internet or “the cloud”. This technology allows for mobile access to data and programs necessary for employees to accomplish their work without requiring them to be in the office or the location where those servers are hosted. In her book “Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations,” Joan E. Pynes says, “There has been a shift in the attitudes and values of employees, who are now seeking a balance between their personal and work lives and demanding more leisure time to spend with their families.” Cloud computing helps accomplish this goal because employees can work from any location as they connect via mobile to the information and projects they need to access.


A mobile application (“app”) can be incredibly powerful or, conversely, absolutely useless depending on the functions it can provide and the end-user’s goals. Before journeying through what can be a lengthy process of app development, organizations must ask themselves what the organization’s envisioned app will do that their mobile website cannot. One function of an app is allowing the user to participate in an experience, for example, virtual reality (VR). VR can be used by nonprofits to potentially close the social and emotional distance between affluent donors and those needing assistance. A study by Yoo and Drumwright studied how UNICEF Korea used VR to enable people to empathize with the suffering of refugees. “Although donors cannot actually meet refugees in difficult environments by visiting Syrian refugee camps, they can experience the intense imagery of an actual encounter through VR….Viewers who experienced the VR campaign showed 80% higher participation in donating to UNICEF Korea than those who did not.”

“Going Mobile” Recommendations:

  1. Get the full leadership team on board. Agree to kill what is not working.
  2. Address the mission by listing organizational goals. Prioritize them.
  3. Discover what constituents want.
  4. Find the intersection between organization’s biggest need and consumer desire.
  5. Identify costs, expertise, and time associated with the potential solutions.
  6. Engage a cross-section of leadership in plan marked by budget and timeline.

 Amanda Siegal is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Siegal is professional creative who produces spaces for people to connect with each other and God in meaningful ways through music, drama, dance, design, and technology. With a degree in entrepreneurship and management, she enjoys developing leaders and unlocking the passion and talents of kids and adults. Siegal works for Christ’s Community Church (CCC) in Glendale, AZ as the Director of Creative Arts since 2013.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog