Should Nonprofits Have Mobile Websites?


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?


Andrew Garberson is the Director of the Digital Marketing Strategy department. He has led digital marketing efforts in a variety of settings, including agency, entrepreneurial and nonprofit environments, and has master's degrees in business administration and mass communications. An Iowan at heart and Pittsburgher in spirit, Andrew commutes on his 10-speed most days between March and December -- after all, he's only human.

  • Our company works specifically with nonprofit organizations and the question of whether our clients should invest in mobile is one that comes up often.

    Our first step is always looking at the data. The problem we run into is we’re never sure if the differences in behavior from desktop to mobile are caused by a bad mobile experience or only because people browse on their phones differently. For example, if we see pages per visit is significantly less on mobile for a client, is this caused by a poor mobile website, or is it because people typically don’t browse as many pages on their phones?

    How do you guys work around that problem? Any ideas would be really helpful.

    Thanks for sharing the study. Really interesting stuff.

  • Andrew Garberson

    That’s a great point. It can be difficult to compare engagement metrics when they differ between devices.

    Try using the Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics to compare mobile v. tablet/desktop. (There are built-in segments you can use to toggle between them.) By paying particular attention to the (red) exits, you should be able to spot natural and unnatural user behavior.

    Mobile users exiting after one blog post or the address/phone page = ok

    A large portion of mobile users bouncing from the home page = time to reassess

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