Saturday, December 29, 2012

Millennial Ticks, Non-Profit Shticks, and the Future of Mobile Giving

It’s been harder for me to skip around Salvation Army kettles this year because where I roam this non-profit seems to have brought out the dancers, the tuba players, and the occasional therapy dog to encourage me to part with my cash.  And it has worked.

I advise a number of nonprofits on the art and science of fundraising and think a lot about the subject.  Given the effects of Hurricane Sandy on my immediate and extended family and friends, the subject has become much more personal.  Over Christmas, I listened to some family and friends complain about what they considered the virtual absence of the Red Cross in their neighborhoods.  That most media outlets in the Greater New York area encouraged viewers to text $10 to the Red Cross for Sandy victims seemed to add salt to the wounds.

The Red Cross has been very public about its charter, contribution to Sandy victims, and how funds have been expended.   Consumers are understandably nosey about how donated fund are used.  I stopped contributing to United Way some years ago when I learned executives were flying first-class.  Other charities felt donor backlash when they misappropriated 9/11 funds, using them to buy computers and cover various unrelated overhead costs.

The New York media seemed to pay considerable attention to college students and young adults who were very supportive of Sandy victims.  These young adults would represent the Millennial generation, aged 20-35 years.  I became interested in how and to what degree this smartphone generation engages with nonprofits.

“The Millennial Impact Report” prepared by the JCA Group served as a useful introduction. The study, which is based on online surveys, focus groups, as well as input from non-profit professionals, examined how to engage Millennials from a nonprofit perspective.  The researchers caution that it is dangerous to overgeneralize about this demographic.  They are not necessarily favorably predisposed to nonprofit brands that they have grown up with.  The research suggests that Millennials tend to make decisions about charitable donations “in the moment” but are still keen to know about results.  Early research citing the narcissism of this generation and its lacks of civic-mindedness does not seem to be supported by this study.

Sixty-five percent of the more than 6,000 surveyed preferred a website for receiving information about a charity, followed by social media and enewsletters.  Respondents said that they looked for a strong call to action on websites and don’t like layers of descriptive content.  They want to act quickly and connect easily.

Millennials are heavy users of mobile apps but don’t think apps are particularly useful for nonprofits.  Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed had interacted with nonprofits on Facebook, largely through “liking” and “sharing” functions.  However, this generation donates negligible amounts through social media.  Use of video did not receive high marks except if it showed the organization at work.  Only 28% had interacted with nonprofits via Twitter.

Researchers note that Millennials prefer to make donations online, in person or by mail, in that order.  The study finds that the future for mobile giving faces an uncertain future. Only 15% of those surveyed report donating by smartphone.  Participants indicated that the $10 limit for smartphone donations was problematic.  Security is also an issue with mobile as it is with social media.  Therefore, a website optimized for mobile is essential.

Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they made a financial gift to charity in 2011.  Forty-two percent gave to what inspired them in the moment.  Their biggest Pet Peeve: “I don’t know how my gift will make a difference.”

Help is on the way.  The Salvation Army, realizing that Millennials conduct business in a manner different than earlier generations, has added a Millennial position.

No news about the tuba players.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hockey Sticks, Mobile Licks and Measuring Arousal

If I had a hockey stick for the fistful of grandiose mobile predictions I have heard (and made) over the last decade, I would be able to start a National Hockey League franchise.  Unfortunately, the NHL is currently on strike, so I will leave this dead metaphor hanging in mid-air begging for icy mercy.

My brother-in–law just got a mobile phone and based on the Eternal Law of Device Penetration, this man is a Laggard.  Sorry Steve, but the family has done its best to convert you over the years, and you have only yourself to blame for coming so late to the party.  That said, this is about market segmentation, brother, and decidedly not about your character, per se.  But we will have plenty of time to discuss your behavior over the holidays.  But can it be that the smartphone celebration is already winding down?

It is hard not to embrace the hockey-stick metaphor.  PC sales have flattened as sales of mobile phones and tablets have soared.  The disruption of old media and old portals and old attitudes continues at a ripe pace and this can only be good news for mobile.  Henry Blodget, CEO of the Business Insider, reminds us that what is holding the business of mobile back is the business of mobile where we are still exchanging analog dollars for digital dimes.  Simply put, the effective CPM for the desktop is $3.50; for mobile. $0.75.  Certainly targeted, location-based and video ads are already changing these percentages and the increased interest on the part of marketers in “native” advertising is bound to move the mobile needle.  But as Blodget notes, the smartphone screen is still really small.

Folks at the IPG Media Lab have raised the right question at the right time:  “Are All Screens Created Equal?”  This research examines whether a device and or screen have an impact on the effectiveness of video ads.  Do other variables, including ad clutter, creative quality, type of video content, and location of consumption, play a role in video ad effectiveness?  The Lab looked at connected TV, linear TV, mobile and the PC at the IPG Media Lab in San Francisco.  Attention was measured by eye-tracking hardware, excitement by biometric bracelets; and ad recall in the traditional manner.

Screen type played a role in ad recall but the differences were not marked: PC (43%); Connected TV (38%); Mobile (35%); and Linear TV (27%). Arousal levels, measured by distinct moments of excitement in each record, were also fairly similar among screens: Connected TV (8%); Mobile (4%); Linear TV (7%); and the PC (7%). The researchers found that “attention levels are high particularly for screens consumers are most familiar with—TV and PC.”

The Media Lab reports that females tend to be more attentive while males show a higher level of excitement.  While TV performs well on attention and excitement measures, this does not translate into strong recall.  Not surprisingly, researchers have found that ad clutter undermines the ad effectiveness of TV.

In summarizing their findings, researchers suggest that, overall, “the much-hyped screen size did not play a role in ad effectiveness.”   But controllable facts such as ad clutter and perceived lack of creativity did.  Similarly, the most engaging content attracted the most attention.  And locations matters: “lean-back environments with less distraction, such as at home in bed, enhance attentiveness.”

This research is certainly not the final word on screen size.  But it might place a little more emphasis on clutter-free environments and encourage advertising agencies to conduct more creative testing, rather than dismiss mobile out-of-hand.

And one wonders what the “always on” smartphone metric might have to contribute to this conversation.

I don’t wear biometric bracelets, but am still very excited.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hospital Health, Digital Stealth and When Software Isn’t the Solution

During the last month I have spent a fair bit of time in hospitals, but not as a patient.  The first occasion was to visit a friend from Italy who was stricken while in San Francisco and hospitalized.  This true Gentleman from Verona is now home in one piece, having left a part of his colon on the West Coast.  The second occasion was with a family member in New York, stricken with a similar complaint, but recovering nicely.

After  I was sure both friend and loved one would be alright, I paid more attention to my surroundings and how important digital had become healthcare, from electronically monitoring medications and potential interactions to bringing technology, such as X-ray equipment, to bedside for quick results.  In both instances, digital initiatives seemed to have compressed healthcare into a shorter time span and the long wait for tests and additional opinions was almost immediate.  The family member had to go to another floor for a CT-scan, but within minutes the doctor had the results on a computer terminal outside her room for immediate analysis.  And this was not a secret confab in some dark ante-room; I could actually ask questions.  In this instance, surgery was necessary but the run-up allowed the patient to be much more of a participant and I know this lowered her level of stress.

Most noticeable was the absence of paper, especially in New York.  Each nurse had a mobile computer terminal that he or she wheeled into hospital rooms and recorded on-site vital signs, anecdotal observations, and concerns from patient and family.  A software program translated the data into a content framework common to the hospital.

This effort to digitize medical records is the result of $4 billion in funding to 83,000 professionals and 1,500 hospitals that was a little known part of the 2009 Stimulus Bill designed to jumpstart the transition to Electronic Health Records (EHR).  So far, so good.  However, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services reports, anecdotal evidence aside, that this program is based on self-reporting and participants do not as of yet collect supporting documents that verify the actual shift to EHR.  So every new technology has a shadow side and this example might be the least of it.

Through September 2012, more than one billion dollars has been invested in digital health initiatives, primarily involving the smartphone, with apps that can check heart rate, pregnancy, suspicious moles, questionable pills, saliva, flu symptoms and so on.  Theoretically, smartphone apps can be used as a tool in everyday health care and for more exotic application.  The Washington Post reports that AliveCor is seeking FDA approval for an app that will provide an EKG by simply pressing an iPhone to the chest.

After my friend and loved one were in the hospital more than a few days, I began to worry about opportunistic infections.   While I was very satisfied with the hospitals in San Francisco and Nyack, New York, I’m well aware that the more digitized hospital services become, the more opportunity for abuse.  Professor Amitai Etzioni, George Washington University, writes in the Huffington Post about the digital fraud in the system, using the Health Management Associates (HMA) as an example (60 Minutes looked at this issue in its December 2, 2012, broadcast).

“According to its own ER doctors, HMA requires that 20 percent of people who step into the ER are admitted to one of HMA’s hospitals—and 50% of seniors.  When a person visits an HMA Emergency Room, company software loaded onto the ER computer automatically orders a bunch of tests, whether they are needed or not, before the person is even seen by a doctor.  When doctors try to discharge a patient from the ER, the computer intervenes, presenting them with a warning that a patient is a candidate for admission.”

My friend from Verona, an Englishman who speaks fluent Italian, was lucky enough to have a doctor in San Francisco who also spoke Italian.  At Nyack Hospital we happened to have a doctor who was a friend of our extended family.  That made all the difference.

The Institute of Medicine estimates that Medicare fraud and abuse range from $75 billion to $98 billion annually.  This number is not surprising because Medicare is required by law to issue payment within 15 to 30 days and there is little time to scrutinize invoices.

This is a problem crying out for a technology solution.