The following post was originally written by the guys at Seaworthy Web Solutions on their blog, and has been reposted with permission.


We do a lot of preaching about mobile optimization. Just last week, we wrote that mobile should top your tech to-do list for 2013. To drive this point home, we wanted to look at 100 of the top organizations in the country and show how the largest and most well-funded nonprofits are addressing their mobile needs. We found something that we didn’t expect – for the most part, they just aren’t.

The Venn diagram above shows the most simple result of our survey of 100 top nonprofit websites and their methods of mobile optimization. We got our list, and though it’s probably not the absolute 100 biggest or best nonprofits, it’s a list of very big organizations that one would expect to be somewhat ahead of the pack in terms of technology.

One would be wrong.

Over 60% of these huge organizations have no mobile optimization at all on their sites. That means that whether you access them from a desktop with a giant flatscreen monitor or your smartphone, you see the exact same site. Of the two options for mobile optimization – creating a mobile-specific redirect or using responsive design to scale and remodel the site by screen size – mobile redirects were far more popular. Only one site had a hybrid approach, with significant responsive design as well as a separate mobile site (National Public Radio).

What Does It Mean?

As is often the case, you can interpret these numbers in a few different ways. First, it shows that there is still a huge amount of work to do to bring nonprofits into the mobile web era. If organizations like PBS and the Sierra Club haven’t embraced mobile optimization yet, it’s a fair bet that the wider nonprofit community, with far less funding and staff, still has a long way to go as well.

It also means that, as we pointed out in last week’s articlemobile still offers a chance to innovate and be noticed. As more and more potential donors access the web through mobile devices, the organizations that cater to them will find themselves with a real advantage over those that do not.

Shouldn’t My Organization Emulate the Biggest / Most Successful Ones?

If these huge organizations can bring in millions in donations without catering to the mobile web, doesn’t that mean that smaller organizations can do the same? Doesn’t it make sense to look at the big boys and do what they do? I would argue that this is the wrong way to look at it. The biggest nonprofits have established revenue streams, huge memberships, and assets that just aren’t comparable to smaller local groups. They may be slow to innovate and embrace new possibilities for fear of losing their old fundraising models. Or, as is often the case, their size itself may be holding them back. The bigger they are, the slower they often move. They can afford to miss out on one segment of donors (though we wouldn’t recommend it) because they do so well at attracting others. Most nonprofits don’t have this luxury – they have to do whatever they can to maximize their base of users and donors.

The Best of the Big Org Mobile Sites

We didn’t write this post just to rag on the big organizations for being less prepared for mobile than we expected them to be. Sure, that was part of it, but we’re not monsters. We also want to point out and reward the ones that are doing mobile right. Such as …
World Wildlife Fund
WWF‘s mobile-friendly responsive site scales really well between devices. It has the advantage, often overlooked in mobile optimization, of starting out relatively simple. The fewer elements on your original page design, the easier and smoother it is to transition to a mobile design. WWF uses large pictures and prioritizes the most important elements, especially in the top half of the page. It’s a really attractive, user-friendly design.
AARP is a massive organization, one of the few American nonprofits that also doubles as a powerful lobbying group. Ironically, a group based around serving retired people has one of the most impressive and up-to-date mobile platforms on the list. Of the short list of organizations with any kin of mobile optimization, AARP’s site is that even rarer bird, creating a full mobile site without a redirect or screen-dependent responsive design. It’s a smooth experience regardless of device.

What Do You Think?

Does the lack of mobile optimization in these large organizations’ sites make you think your organization can do without it? Or does it motivate you to get ahead of the pack and find an advantage that is clearly still out there to be taken? Let us know in the comments or on our social networks. We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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