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Using Mobile for the Red Cross Mission

March DMAW Lunch and Learn sponsored by mGive

Lisa Kagel, Sr. Director, Digital Engagement & Customer Experience, presented to a nearly full house at the Old Ebbitt Grill in DC. She shared with us, old timers and newbies alike, just how the American Red Cross is tackling the octopus swimming around us all called “finding the optimal way to connect with their supporters in whatever channel they want to use.” And, for close to 50% of their supporters that channel is on their phone and/or tablet.

Lisa started out talking about the online marketing landscape, which used to be as simple and neat as a nicely mowed lawn in the spring. Now, instead of knowing exactly how people will connect with the Red Cross online, (i.e. via their the desktop), the deep and cavernous mobile seascape has opened up a brave new world untying us from our home computers and giving everyday folks amazing access to just about anything, anytime. Our “smart phones” do significantly more than “reach out and call someone.”

I suppose if I took the time I could put a name to each of the octopus’ tentacles to correspond to expanded marketing touch points. But for now, I will focus on the “Mobile Landscape” and how our expectations as consumers have changed as a result of the near omnipresence of smart phones. Lisa informed us that nearly half of all Red Cross’ interactions for the blood drives are done using a smart phone.  These numbers most likely match what other organizations are seeing. We know that that this percentage will only be increasing exponentially.

Consumers expect that their mini hand held computer, aka their phone, can and should be able to do anything that can be done from a desktop or laptop computer. In fact, just ask Google, who warns that soon mobile-friendliness will be a major player in how you appear in search results. (Check out for more details.) So what does this mean to an organization?  Non-profits must have a “mobile first” mentality. It is imperative to design the online experience to meet their donors and supporters’ needs first– nothing more, nothing less.

One statement that struck me as extremely important was Red Cross’ understanding that access to their information by those in need or by those who want to help, may mean that access to a strong internet signal may be limited during a crisis. “In an ARC world, offline matters, mobile experiences should be designed so that they are sync friendly and provide functionality in low and no coverage situations!  Offline functionality is critical to online efficacy.” This may not be fully comprehended by folks who almost always have ubiquitous access to the Internet. As a reluctant member of the Urban Amish, I appreciate this statement more than anyone can imagine.  To me this says, remember what your mission is and whom you are serving.

This leads us to what I think is a key take away – slightly paraphrasing Lisa: “Know your Strategy: so you can deliver the right content to the right people at the right time in the right channel on the right device to drive engagement, actions & desired outcomes.”

A few more key takeaways include:

  • Start with a “mobile first” mentality that transcends channels.
  • Analytics – don’t start the dive in the deep sea of decision-making without accessing and interpreting real data, in almost real time.
  • And, if you really want to know just where people go and what they spend time on – check out “heat mapping” it’s hot and it is informative!
  • Use responsive design not adaptive.
  • Engage stakeholders early with clear and concise communications.

What’s next: “Texting” as the next CRM…


Tracy Lea, CFRE
VP, The Harrington Agency

Tracy is a fundraiser and direct market who finds herself reflecting on how the past & the future connect in order to plan for tomorrow. You can reach Tracy at or follow her on twitter: @tldenagylea