Should Nonprofits Have Mobile Websites?

November 11, 2013
By Andrew Garberson

search volume for mobile website

The conversation about mobile websites has been an active one over the last several years with no shortage of opinion or recommendation. This is particularly true in the nonprofit community where so much time is devoted to what needs to be done with far less spent on why or if.

This study intends to shed light on why organizations are investing in mobile websites and if your organization should consider one, too.

Mobile Traffic Study

The purpose of this study is not to weigh mobile website options or prescribe the appropriate mobile solution–there are better resources for those questions. Instead, it strives to help you answer these:

  1. At what rate are nonprofit audiences adopting mobile?
  2. Should an organization invest in a mobile-friendly website?

To address the first question, LunaMetrics analyzed 12.2 million visits to eight nonprofit websites during the first three quarters of 2013. The research looks for trends in mobile organic visits from search engines, called mobile search in the study, and total mobile visits, referred to as mobile traffic.

Organization size ranges from small, local organizations to international leaders. The sample can be broken into the following groups.

  • 3 are among the top 50 most recognizable nonprofit brands in North America
  • 3 are mid-sized leaders within their sector
  • 2 have local missions and would not be recognized outside of their region

Organization focus varies greatly with little overlap to avoid any industry seasonality or other external factors. Organizations in the study had these missions.

  • Advocacy
  • Aid
  • Community Organizing
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Recreation
  • Research

Now that you know why we conducted the study and what types of organizations were analyzed, let’s get to the results.

The following graph illustrates the relative rise or fall of mobile and non-mobile traffic. For each organization, we compared traffic fluctuations over nine months to the mean. Data points on the graph reflect the average change across all eight organizations. A number above 1.0 represents monthly traffic above the mean.

Comparison of mobile search and non-mobile search traffic to nonprofit websites

The results suggest a shift in user behavior, particularly with respect to search traffic. The mobile use of nonprofit audiences appear to growing along with international trends. To reaffirm that, we compared mobile traffic to total traffic.

Percent of search and mobile traffic to nonprofit websites

A trend line for “% Mobile Traffic” demonstrates an 8% increase in the share of total mobile traffic between the start of Q1 and end of Q3.

Should an Organization Invest in a Mobile Website?

The study results are interesting, but should not influence an organization’s decision to invest in a mobile-friendly website. You need to investigate for yourself and weigh the benefits and costs by answering these questions.

  1. Is mobile a sizable portion of the audience? Compare the mobile audience in Google Analytics to the total audience.
  2. Does the mobile audience behave differently? Compare pages per visit, time on site and bounce rates.
  3. How much will it cost? If you made it to this question, it is time to take the next step by weighing mobile website options or prescribing an appropriate mobile solution.

This study might pose more questions than it answers. What other questions do you have about nonprofit mobile traffic?