A recent report by the UN agency International Telecoms Union "ITU World in 2013" found that by the end of 2014 there will be more mobile subscriptions than people in the world (Read the BBC report or Download the pdf). The report predicts that the current level of 6.8 billion subscriptions will pass 7 billion next year. There are 7.1 billion people on the planet.
The same report found that only 2.7 billion people – around 40% of the world population – is online. Europe had the highest penetration (75%) followed by the Americas (61%), Asia (32%) and Africa (16%). ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure said "Two-thirds of the world's population, some 4.5 billion people, are still offline. This means (they) are still locked out of the world's biggest market".
So what does this mean for nonprofits trying to meet constituents where they are? Most of the mobile subscribers don't have "smartphones" but many have "feature" phones that allow them to use texting and some limited applications. So while apps are not the place most organizations should start, mobile and texting strategies require attention. (Flickr photo: garyknight)
My advice to nonprofits about where to put their effort when it comes to online presence over the last few years has generally been: 40% to their website, 40% to email and 20% to social media. So if they had 2 hours a week to devote, they would on average devote around 50 minutes to website and email and 20 minutes to social media. This has always been a very rough guideline, as each nonprofit is unique – some organizations have their website in good shape and can/need to devote more time to the other areas.
As I have watched the number of nonprofit supporters who access websites, read email and use social networks on their phones increase, I have increasingly been recommending a greater emphasis on mobile. This includes a mobile friendly website, emails optimized for mobile viewing, greater attention to social media and the new channel of texting.
In a world where significantly more folks have mobile phones than internet access, it may be time for mobile strategy to deserve more attention from nonprofits. This is especially true if your organization works in Asia or Africa where a majority of folks still are not online.
Should you prioritize mobile over your website? Not yet, because a website is still the transactional hub for most organizations online. But I think that all nonprofits would do well to devote time to thinking through a mobile strategy – having a mobile-friendly website, testing emails for being mobile-friendly and thinking through how they might use text. As the trends mentioned above indicate, your audience might be more likely to find you or engage with you via mobile than through a traditional website – you want to be ready when they do!
There are some great resources about mobile strategy on the NTEN website (webinars, recordings of sessions from past Nonprofit Technology Conferences, blog posts, etc.). The recent article by Stanford Social Innovation Review "Six Mobile Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits" is also a good place to start.