“Forget Apps, Young Donors View Web Sites on Their Smart Phones”
By Cody Switzer
To reach people in their 20s and early 30s, the most important thing nonprofits can do is to make
sure their Web sites are easy to read on a mobile device and not overly cluttered, says a survey of
more than 6,500 young people released today.
About 65 percent of respondents said they liked to learn about a nonprofit through its Web
site, compared with 55 percent who said they turned to social networks, e-mail newsletters (47
percent), print (18 percent), and face-to-face conversations (17 percent).
When young adults turn to a Web site, the “about us” section draws their attention most. Nearly
nine in 10 young people said that’s where they go to seek information, according to the survey,
conducted by two consulting companies, Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle, and Associates.
Other information young people want on a Web site:
43 percent said they look immediately for proof about the ways their donations make a
41 percent seek volunteer opportunities.
41 percent look for an events calendar.
30 percent gravitate to videos and photos.
Beyond the information on a Web site, young people also scrutinize the design.
“Even if you are a small, scrappy nonprofit, your Web site should look professional,” said one
young person quoted anonymously in a report on the survey results. “I judge the character of the
organization with its presence on the Web.”
75% of Young Adults Gave to Charity Last Year, Study Finds
Many young people are looking at charity Web sites on their smartphones, which 77 percent of
the survey participants said they own.
“The mobile device is becoming the entry point and the access point for people to find out about
nonprofits,” says Derrick Feldmann, chief executive of Achieve.
Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle, and Associates conducted the study by distributing a
questionnaire through e-mail and social media with the help of 14 organizations, which sent
messages to their constituents and donors. Those organizations included several colleges
and universities, AmeriCorps Alums, and the social-change group Mobilize.org. The survey
was followed up in three cities with focus groups that Achieve conducted to understand how
nonprofits could use the results.
Not surprisingly, the speed of Internet communications has led young people to
expect “immediate and impulsive interactions” with organizations, according to the report.
Participants in focus groups said they wanted to understand an organization’s mission in less
than a second after visiting the Web page.
They also said they turn to mobile sites when they first learn about an organization, trying to get
quick information when they are on the go. Young people said they preferred mobile sites that
included just the most important information they could act on and that made it easy to click an
address or phone number to connect with the nonprofit.
“They said, ‘My way has shifted between sitting down and viewing information to standing,’”
Mr. Feldmann says.
Mr. Feldmann says nonprofits should expand their thinking about how to use mobile devices
beyond seeking text gifts and creating applications.
Focus-group members liked mobile apps but said they didn’t make sense for nonprofits because
it’s possible to get information just as easily on a Web site, and the apps work only on specific
devices, such as iPhones or Androids.
Among the study’s other findings:
Keep e-mail newsletters short and to the point. Members of the focus groups said they were
more likely to read short, focused e-mails than long messages. About 65 percent of young people
said they wanted e-mails to give them news about the organization, and 61 percent wanted
information about events.
Facebook is the most popular social network. Two-thirds of young people said they
interacted with a nonprofit on Facebook, and 92 percent of those respondents “liked” at least
one nonprofit’s Facebook page. Three-fourths of people said they would be willing to share an
interesting nonprofit event on Facebook.
Twitter is more personal. About 28 percent of young people said they have interacted with a
nonprofit on Twitter. Focus-group members said Twitter is especially useful when nonprofit
leaders have their own personal accounts and share their views.
Text messages from a charity seem intrusive. Many young people said they would rather not
receive text messages from a charity, because they view texts as a form of communication with
friends and relatives.