Following talks from global organizations like UNICEF and The Nature Conservancy, Beth Shapiro, executive director, Citymeals-on-Wheels brought the focus of the Fifth Annual Nonprofit Mobile Day conference to a local scale by discussing nonprofit work right in New York City.

Through her presentation, “How Mobile Drives Donations and Marketing,” Shapiro discussed how Citymeals-on-Wheels experimented with different forms of mobile marketing, such as responsive Web design and text-to-donate — with varying levels of success.

Since 1981, Citymeals-on-Wheels has delivered 50 million meals to homebound, elderly New Yorkers during weekends, holidays, and emergencies. The company’s marketing and donor roots began within the restaurant community, then branched into direct mail and websites in the 1990s. Citymeals-on-Wheels launched its first non-transactional website in 1998, and redesigned the site in 2007 to accommodate transactions.

“With the first website, donors would input their payment information, and we would have to run it through manually,” said Shapiro. “We were a bit behind there.”

The results of the 2007 website redesign were overwhelmingly positive. Citymeals-on-Wheels raised $176,000 online in 2006, and raised $321,000 online in 2007 after the redesign. Citymeals-on-Wheels redesigned its website again in 2011 to accommodate mobile devices, and raised over $1 million online in 2013 and 2014 as a result.

As Citymeals-on-Wheels expanded its online and mobile strategy, it came to realize that not all mobile campaigns are right for all nonprofits. This became evident in 2009, when the organization launched a text-to-donate campaign called “Text a Turkey” for the holiday season. Every text represented a $5 donation, translating to one holiday meal.

“We were hesitant about the $5 donation. Most of our donations online and through direct mail were much higher than $5, but we were trying to branch into a new donor market,” said Shapiro.

Although Citymeals-on-Wheels advertised the promotion through PSAs, website and events, and print collateral at local restaurants, the “Text a Turkey” campaign was not a success: 550 gifts raised only $2750.

“Text-to-donate wasn’t really right for us at that time,” said Shapiro.  “But when the earthquake in Haiti happened that January, that’s when text-to-donate really took off. We learned that it works best with a significant world, national, or local emergency.”

In September 2013, Citymeals-on-Wheels created responsive donation forms to simplify the giving process. The reduced text and larger images and calls-to-action created a seamless email-to-conversion experience for mobile devices.

“Since implementing responsive forms last fall, donations made with mobile devices have increased by more than 300%. That’s over $40,000,” said Shapiro. “The importance of Web fundraising as a revenue stream has grown. Now the focus is on use of mobile device in Web fundraising.”
Held Tuesday, July 15 at DMA’s NYC headquarters, The Fifth Annual Nonprofit Mobile Day, organized by the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation and Mobile Commerce Daily, is geared to helping charities and nonprofits understand the ins and outs of mobile marketing and mobile commerce for marketing and donor outreach opportunities in the multichannel mix.


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