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A discussion on why your nonprofit should be investing in mobile now.

Ben Evans, Partner at A16z recently wrote a piece titled, “The smartphone is the new sun,” where he predicted the death of the PC and the imminent rise of the smartphone ecosystem. His logic, simply, is that there soon will be nothing a PC can do that a smartphone cannot and that the blurred lines between what is a PC and a smartphone will end in the death of the PC (I am paraphrasing). Moving forward, every piece of technology (and our lives, in many ways), will revolve around mobile technology as nothing has in the past. While I am not sure when this will happen, Ben’s evidence is compelling. As such, nonprofit leaders should be taking smartphone technology more seriously than they are today by investing in the sun now.

And it just keeps growing

Why is mobile going to be the center of our universe? Before I can answer that question, it is important understand what is “mobile.” I’ve done my best to simplify Ben’s explanation of “mobile” but feel free to reach out for further clarification.

Here is the TDLR of what is mobile:

  1. Mobile technology is simpler to build, but lacks the ability to replace specific pieces easily
  2. Mobile software is more secure than PC software
  3. The hardware used in mobile technology consumes way less energy than does PC hardware
  4. Mobile is selling super fast and PC sales are declining

The main takeaway is that mobile is more than the screen size or device. So back to our question, why are we revolving around mobile? Mobile hardware is now defined by the software and software is eating the world – including the nonprofit space. Want evidence? Look at the CES –  the largest hardware innovation conference in the world – all of the new and unique devices all plugged into ecosystems that are either connected to the phone or can be. Baby toys controlled by smartphones, connected watches, screens, drones, and chargers that all relate back to software made for mobile technology.

My point is that mobile is pwning the world and should be important to you. However, I also understand that resources are limited. So the big question that a nonprofit leader should be asking themselves related to mobile is not whether they should invest, but instead “when” and “how much.” When I speak to nonprofit leaders, I am a big proponent of two concepts. These are:

  1. Invest Early: Be the change you want to see in the world. Leading nonprofits have begun investing in mobile tech, but there is plenty of room for industry leaders to lead others into mobile. No one writes articles about the 4th place finisher.
  2. Invest Intelligently: Stop thinking like a nonprofit and start thinking like a social enterprise. We are currently in an organization model boom where for profit entities are trying to act more like nonprofits and nonprofits are trying to act more like for profit entities. 


The beauty of investing in mobile today is that your efforts will not only enable your nonprofit to increase its impact compared to other nonprofits, but could improve the sustainability of your fundraising model compared to more traditional models. For instance, TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker are great examples of for profit organizations operating as mission-driven organizations that have a nonprofit arm where they drive their sustainable impact. On the flip side, World Bike Relief operates as a nonprofits but manages and owns for profit entities to drive their mission forward. Mozilla and the Mozilla Foundation is another great example. All of these entities are successfully managing both sides of the coin.

So, to summarize:

Invest in the sun now. Period.