8 Reasons Your Nonprofit's Website Must Have Mobile Responsive Design

You can tell just by looking around you. If there are people in your direct vicinity, most likely more than one of them is absorbed by a mobile device. The growth of mobile devices has changed the way we browse the internet and interact with websites online.

So what is mobile-responsive design? According to Copyblogger, "When a website is responsive, the layout and/or content responds (or, adapts) based on the size of the screen it’s presented on. A responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on."

A website that doesn't have this adaptability can be very difficult and cumbersome to navigate on a mobile device, which is (very) bad for you and your organization, as we'll soon see!

Mobile devices are here for the long haul, and savvy businesses have know this was coming for some time. What about your nonprofit? Is your organization's website keeping up? Why should you even care? We'll explore these questions below!

1. Your Past, Current, and Future Stakeholders are Viewing Your Site with a Mobile Device

No matter the nature of your organization, you're website visitors are increasingly navigating your site on their mobile devices. Check your website's analytics data (head to Audiences> Mobile> Overview) for yourself if you don't believe me! You'll see what percentage of visitors visited your site from a desktop/mobile/tablet. You might be surprised at how many visitors come from a mobile device.

2. It Increases Conversions

According to the Pew Internet Project's research, 9% of adults have texted a charitable donation from their mobile phone.

When optimizing responsive design for mobile conversions, make sure your value proposition of your organization (what benefit the visitor's action will bring) and other conversion boosting elements are highly visible. Use images and videos instead of plain text, and make your forms as short as possible.

For example, by adopting responsive design, United Way of the Bay Area was able to:

  • Increase mobile sessions over 34 percent
  • Increase tablet sessions by 21.5 percent
  • Generate 28 percent growth in year-over-year online donations

Those are some pretty impressive numbers! There are also plenty of apps available that can help you boost donations.

3. Enhances User Experience

Mobile visitors are a discerning group; They're not likely to stick around on your site if it looks bad, loads slowly, is difficult to click links or navigate. They just won't put up with it and they'll be gone before you have a chance to connect with them on a more meaningful level. They're not likely to return either.

What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today, a study from Google (conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger, independent market research firms). The report surveyed 1,088 US adult smartphone Internet users in July 2012.

*The study was done with business in mind, but I believe you can apply the results to nonprofit website without losing relevance.

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site
  • 79% of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn't mobile-friendly
  • 48% of users say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly
  • 36% said they felt like they’ve wasted their time by visiting those sites
  • 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company
  • 48% said that if a site didn’t work well on their smartphones, it made them feel like the company didn’t care about their business

Again, check out your website's analytics statistics. You'll also be able to get an idea of the experience they had by comparing bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session. If you see that mobile visitors were more likely to bounce, have a shorter session duration and fewer pages per visit than desktop users, you may have a problem with mobile visitor experience.

4. It is Recommended by Google

Google has taken a strong stance on mobile SEO, announcing that there will be demotions if your site is not mobile friendly or is misconfigured. SEO Roundtable notes that,

"...the demotion will only impact mobile, smartphone friendly, search results and only impact web pages that are not smartphone friendly or misconfigured when it comes to being smartphone friendly."

This means that ranking in desktop searches won't be affected, but those people searching for your website, or performing a keyword search that would normally give your site a chance to show up organically may not find you as readily.

Jay Taylor of Search Engine Watch explains why Google considers mobile responsive websites to be industry best practice:

"This is because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of device, which makes it easier and more efficient for Google to crawl, index, and organize content. Contrast this with a separate mobile site which has a different URL and different HTML than its desktop counterpart, requiring Google to crawl and index multiple versions of the same site."

While it's considered best practice, plenty of businesses and organizations have gone the route of creating separate sites for mobile visitors.  Aleyda Solis created this flowchart that helps you understand when you'd need a mobile responsive site, vs. creating a separate mobile site:

5. You'll Get A Competitive Advantage

Competition can come across as a dirty word in the nonprofit world, but the reality is that you are probably in competition with plenty of other nonprofits. You're competing for followers, publicity, donation money, volunteers, qualified staff, and much more!

Even if you're a local nonprofit with a unique mission, you're competing against other organizations in your community for resources. Plus, you're competing against other NPO's across the world for donations. It's not necessarily about who's mission is this the best- you need to be able to convey your mission and the benefits it will bring in a fun, fresh, and easily-accessible way.

In other words, the marketing winner is often the donations winner.

If your website is mobile-responsive, you're probably a step further than many of the other organizations who are vying for the attention of your target audience. Again, the reality is that you need to do what you can to succeed and survive as an organization.

6. You'll Future-Proof Your Website

Mobile devices are constantly evolving. They already come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and the future could bring even more complexity. Introducing a mobile-responsive design will ensure that your website will automatically fit any device out there.

7. Blogging and Social Activities Bring Mobile Visitors

If you're spending a lot of time and energy creating content, especially social content, a mobile-responsive site is crucial. This is because the likelihood that visitors who click-through from that content to your website with a mobile device is significantly higher than via desktop. In fact, Hubspot notes that, "91% of mobile internet access is for social activities, versus just 79% on desktops."

So if you've been working really hard to engage people on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or any other social platform, you're more likely to attract a mobile visitor to your site through these efforts. You don't want to negate all your social media work by driving visitors to a website that just doesn't work for them on their mobile device!

8. Email is Opened More Frequently on Mobile Devices Than on a Desktop

According to Knotice, almost half of all email opens in the 2nd half of 2013 were done on a mobile device, up from just 13% at the end of 2010. This is a shockingly rapid trajectory! It means that not only do your email communications need to look great on a mobile device, but a huge chunk of visits via email will come from a mobile device.

You know how critical your email list is to your fundraising efforts. This is why you want to be sure that people who were interested enough in what you have to say to click-trough to your website don't bounce away because of poor mobile-user experience on your site. Check out Knotice's chart highlighting the rise of mobile email opens below:

What to do Next

I think the above 8 points make a pretty clear case in favor of a mobile responsive site. So what should you do if you have decided you need a responsive design? You have a couple of options:

  • Upgrade to a responsive site: Although the most expensive option, this is the investment that will pay off the most in the long run.
  • Add a cheap mobile solution: While not the best solution, a cheap or DIY mobile site will at least help you reach some of your mobile audience until you have the budget to upgrade to a responsive design. Just make sure that a rel=canonical tag is applied so Google can consolidate indexing and ranking signals. The tag also prevents confusion about possible duplicate content between mobile and desktop versions of a page
  • Ignore mobile visitors: We do not, have never and will never endorse this option (but it is technically an option.)

You're probably going to have to pay to get your site upgraded, unless one of your board members has web development experience, or knows someone who is willing to volunteer their time. There are also a few organizations that can help match you with the volunteers you need:

  • Taproot Foundation: They place professional volunteers with expertise in technology, marketing, fundraising, and human resources, in nonprofits that have successfully gone through a service grant application process. Grant applications are reviewed quarterly, and you can expect the volunteer — or team of volunteers — to work with your organization for up to six months.
  • Volunteer Match: This site not only offers volunteer-matching services, but information and webinars on such topics as getting companies involved in group volunteer efforts, virtual volunteering for people who want to work online from home, and attracting volunteers online.
  • SmartVolunteer: Focuses on matching skilled professionals with nonprofits. Its skills category includes everything from legal to brokerage to medical to cosmetology.

Browse around their volunteers to see if there's a match, or follow each site's protocol to get linked with a volunteer. In the meantime, view your own site on multiple devices with this free tool, and check out some examples of organizations who have done it right for some inspiration.

Even if your organization can't afford a mobile responsive re-design now (and it probably will change the look of your website on desktop as well!), keep it in mind for the future. The enhanced user experience and better shot at donations will be worth it!