My recent crash course in mobile marketing, SMS text campaigns and non profit rules

July 31, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I had my first experience as a mobile marketer!  We did a text messaging campaign at the recent ELCA Youth Gathering, which drew  37,000 teenagers and their chaperones to New Orleans last week around the theme of “Jesus, Justice, Jazz”.  It was — as you can imagine– a mega event, complete with christian rock, a three-story neon cross, and inspiring speakers with their contracts freshly signed.  Needless to say, its hard to break through this Lutheran Disneyland with your message.   Our message?  your church does advocacy and cares about justice, and you can get involved.   Our mode?  The text.

After some harried web searching, thank god for Mobile Active’s list, and this great how-to primer, it seemed there are really only two vendors out there doing the non-profit text thing: Mobile Accord and Mobile Commons.  We went for the Mgive platform from Mobile Accord because it was cheaper (they are based in Denver), while the Mobile Commons (NYC baby!) had more services to offer that we did not really need.    These mobile programs are set up mainly to solicit donations, usually $5 off the phone bill, the main example out there is Alicia Key’s Keep a Child Alive mobile campaign.   However, the ELCA is a church, and 501-c-3, but does not file a 990 –  and therefore we are not elegible to recieve donations through the Mobile Giving Foundation.   Thus we could not purchase any of the packages offered by mGive set up to get donations.

It worked out though – we just bought a keyword, “Justice” for $200 and then paid .5 per text sent.  We sent out one text every day of the conference.

We thought we were geniuses, “oh these youth, they will love to text us and we will capture their data forever” but it was not so simple.  Of the 37,000 people there, only 4,100 opted-in to our campaign.

Our problems:

  • Too many asks — not only did we want them to text, we wanted them to do a role play about homelessness, write their senator, commit to learning about human trafficking in their community….  we competed with ourselves!  Bad bad bad.  But somehow we could not stop.
  • We asked them to text from our booth in the convention center. People don’t really want to text at a booth.  But they will text when they are sitting down watching something.   Our best means of getting people to opt in was through when we had workshops where we talked to the youth.  Then we said, “take out your phones, “Text Justice to 464329”.   And like little happy robots, they did it.
  • Sell the message not the tactic. We had two ways of asking them to opt-in.  Sometimes we said, if you text, you can be entered to win prizes during the Youth Gathering like a snuggie.   Other times we said, if you text you can stay in touch with the ELCA and learn more ways to be involved in our advocacy, hunger and justice work.   These were save the world youth!  They wanted to stay involved.  They were not fooled by snuggies.
  • We did not anticipate that these young Christians would have been told to leave their cell phones at home! Yup.  Their militant youth leaders set rules: no cell phones.  Not sure how to get around that……
  • People were more suspicious than we thought they would be, they thought we would spam them.  Fair enough. Its a new medium.  But we needed some talking points about that.
  • Intergration — we did not get fully integrated into the webpage and the other organizers and social media of the gathering.   We started too late, and we did not pound the pavement convincing everyone else to get on board.   We told ourselves, this is pilot, next time… but ultimately a missed opportunity.

All in all, a good experience, and we will continue to learn from texting this nascent network.  Besides, if all 37,000 had texted us it would have broke the bank…. and that would not have been good.


SMS and awareness raising about the African Women’s Rights Protocol

March 5, 2008 at 9:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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African Women’s Protocol

Though I am a few years late reporting this, I was excited to learn that women used an SMS campaign that spanned Africa to get governments to ratify the African Women’s Protocol of Rights. Though it took eight years of negotiation to create the protocol, now ratified by 23 out of 53 African countries– the real challenge remains getting the word out.

The protocol is significant because it is able to address cultural and traditional practices specific to Africa, such as polygamy, female genital mutilation (FGM), land ownership, and sexual cleansing. But once the protocol was written, the struggle for implementation and awareness was just beginning. It received significant media coverage, but to reach grassroots women, community organizers used flip charts to explain to women that they have rights.

“Assisting women to demand the rights of the protocol is challenging because most women are not literate. We have to ensure every woman knows about the protocol, it is a big issue,” said Rose Gawaya, Oxfam Global Gender Adviser, speaking to the Commission on the Stats of Women.

Oxfam has even conducted a study of awareness levels about the protocol since it entered into force in 2004.

The charter is gaining traction in some countries legal systems. In Zambia, the Protocol has been used to implement a new policy that requires 30% of advertised land to go to women in title.

Still, educating women parliamentarians about the protocol and the importance of rights policies for women is urgently needed. Even when women have political power, it does not mean they can enforce their rights.

In Mozambique, where 92 out of 252 parliamentarians are women, a bill on violence against women has been stalled in the legislature for one year. According to women advocates, no one is supporting it, and the women in power in the parliament do not have enough power to influence processes.

Many women’s rights advocates have the protocol at the center of their work, using it as a catalyst for policy change and teaching about human rights. “This is a tool that can be used in national development strategies because it is a legitimate tool for governments, but it was created by women’s movement and articulates struggles of domestic violence and widowhood,” said Gawaya.

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