8-23-11 update:  As of today it’s about 1 in 3 and by the end of 2011 it’s tracking to be 1 in 2 potential donor own this. [End of update.]

Yes, one in four Americans own something that is a rapidly . . . very rapidly . . . growing channel.  I’m talking about mobile. 1 in 4 Americans own a smartphone. KEEP READING if you care about the future of your nonprofit. Please don’t think it doesn’t apply to you because the subject is mobile. 

During 2011 – that’s next year – smartphone sales are predicted to exceed laptop purchases.  In other words: People are buying more smartphones than laptop computers.

One big reason is because the smartphone does almost everything the laptop will do.  Laptops and notebooks are often purchased for convenience when traveling, taking along to a meeting at another location, doing a bit of work from home, and so on.  People want the convenience of the smaller size, weight, and overall ease of hauling it around.

Smartphones are even lighter and easier to transport than laptops and notebooks.  They are computers.

People – donors, prospects, volunteers, members, advocates – use mobile devices to send and receive text messages, location-based searches for items and events of interest (geo-marketing), send and receive email, keep up with the news, access their social networks (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), watch videos (e.g., YouTube), and they even talk on them.

Take a look at the graph below.

From ComScore Data Mine

Charities: Probably most of your most generous donors are over 65.  Please don’t ignore mobile simply because as of today only 6.3% of people 65 and older have smartphones.  You can send these donors text cultivation messages on any cell phone.  You can also incorporate a strong mobile strategy within your overall fundraising and marketing strategies.

That’s not all.  Look at the numbers for people ages 45 – 64.  In that group 30.5% have smartphones and the numbers are growing rapidly each month.

These represent your “young donors.”  These are the people you need to be fervently courting, cultivating, and engaging.  It’s imperative that you plan for the future that’s just around the corner.  And mobile ought to be a viable part of your plan.

Something else that may help you is a post I wrote on major donors and smartphones

Professional Associations: Many associations have members in nearly every age group.  You too can take advantage of mobile to cultivate members.  Send them career tips or updates on training programs you offer.  And don’t forget about advertising on the mobile web to attract new members.

It’s not just for techies anymore.

You don’t need to be a techie to implement mobile and I have resources to help you: In addition to posts on mobile marketing and donor cultivation here on the ZAPP Nonprofit Blog, an article I wrote was also published in the DMA Nonprofit Federation September 2010 JournalLook on page 20 for Donor Cultivation Goes Mobile, by Karen Zapp

Dip your toe into the mobile waters today because you can’t afford to play catch-up.  You’ll lose out on gathering precious donors, members, volunteers and revenue if you ignore mobile.

I believe if you have to choose between how much time you spend on mobile versus social media . . . choose mobile.  Give mobile preference over social media.  (Don’t ignore social media, however.)

So how do you get started with mobile?  Do you know where to begin?  Do you know the lingo or have any idea how it works? 

You could spend several hours and days researching the topic on your own.  You could try to find more webinars where the first 40 minutes are graphs and stats on how many people are using mobile and how usage is exploding.  That’s followed by examples of how retailers are using it with statements like, “Oh, and this applies just as well for nonprofits.” 

Or you can read my soup-to-nuts guidebook on mobile written exclusively for fundraising professionals: Mobile for Nonprofits – Connecting to Donors Through the Power of Mobile           

And in case you missed it, I wrote a post with a great way for you to encourage more seniors to text via mobile.  Just scroll down until you see the subhead, “Are most of your donors over age 65?”   

The tipping point has passed.  Mobile is main stream.  Mobile is an ideal way to cultivate donors, members, volunteers and all your supporters.  Mobile is for ALL nonprofits.