Mobile users ‘less likely to donate to charity’: report

A report says that mobile phone users are less likely to make donations through give-back programs than those browsing on desktop and laptop PCs, suggesting charities should reconsider how they appeal to mobile donors.

James Hayes | 12th Jul 18
Three diverse people study their smartphones while they wait on a train platform. Studio Graphene has offered the chance for not-for-profits to have a new app built for free. Unsplash/rawpixel

Mobile phone users are 84% less likely to make donations through give-back programs than those browsing on desktop and laptop PCs, suggests a report into how digital tool preference may influence giving habits. Charities need to reconsider how they appeal to mobile donors, the report warns, if they are to retain engagement.

The Truth Behind Smartphone Behaviour  from analytics firm Clicktale and the University of Pennsylvania examined the existence of a distinct psychology prompted by the use of smartphones – a ‘mobile mindset’.

The research analysed the anonymised online movement patterns and browsing behaviours of more than 1m digital consumers from around the world. As well as avoiding donations, it also found that mobile phone users were 36% less likely to purchase gifts for others from their devices, compared to those using desktops and laptops. This further highlights the individualistic, self-focused nature of the mobile mindset, the report said.

The results of another study by the University of Maryland, The Effect of Mobile Phone Use on Prosocial Behaviour, suggested that smartphone use could make users less ‘socially-minded’, the report explained. This is because smartphones directly evoke feelings of connectivity to others, thereby fulfilling the basic human need to belong: mobile use allows us to enter a more individualistic and self-involved mindset.

The new research has built on this idea by proposing that desktop/laptop users are more likely to think about others while shopping and browsing and are 16% more willing than mobile users to donate via a give-back program.

“Smartphone use makes us less socially-minded and more self-focused,” Dr Shiri Melumad, one of the authors of the report and Assistant Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. “While exploring the various elements of a mobile mindset we found out that it’s [more] characterised by a desire to be entertained and a need for fast personalised content.”

The third sector should look to giving their online strategies more mobile appeal, said the report. With mobile users adopting such an individualistic mindset, the provision of personal experiences that appeal to their sense of self becomes important, and tailored content that appeals to the individual will prove more effective  this demographic segment than ‘emotional content and appeals to pathos’.

Charities and other donor-seeking organisations may therefore struggle to encourage direct donations via these channels, and instead should focus on other digital quid pro quos, such as content marketing.