There’s an app for that.

How to use mobile apps to increase your nonprofit’s visibility.

by Ves Som


Unless you have been on a deserted island for the last five years, you know that mobile apps abound and can assist you in doing everything from paying for your daily coffee habit to booking airline tickets to ordering pizza. Apps can also make managing your nonprofit easier and create a more enjoyable experience for your donors and supporters.

What is an app anyway? “App” is an abbreviation for application; put simply, a mobile app is a computer program that can run on your mobile device, allowing on-the-go access to your information, services, and donor site. Apps may have many functions, from providing information to real-time interaction with consumers.

Why should our organization consider apps? According to the digital marketing firm, eMarketer, there will be approximately 116 million smartphone users in the U.S. in 2013. That makes mobile apps a powerful tool in your efforts to reach more volunteers and donors. Potential donors expect apps. In fact, app use is so widespread that not having an app can hinder your marketing and fundraising efforts. In today’s multimedia market, consumers expect to be able to conduct their lives on the go. Whether it’s playing fantasy football with friends, learning a new language, getting deals from local businesses, or making charitable donations, consumers all over the world use apps to get it done.

How can apps help our nonprofit? Mobile apps are an excellent way to reach volunteers, donors, and program participants where they are – everywhere. Nonprofits and their constituents can benefit from the flexibility mobile apps provide. Instead of having to open mail or email to receive your charitable message or giving request, app users can receive the information in real time through app notifications.

Are apps right for this organization? Do you want to instantly coordinate volunteer activities, provide services to those in need, accept donations, and share relevant information regarding your organization with hundreds or thousands of people? If so, your organization may be a perfect candidate for your own mobile app.

What else should we consider? Development, implementation, and maintenance of a mobile app involves many considerations, including cost, whether you have the staff and knowledge to support the app or can hire an outside consultant to do so, and of course, all the legal mumbo jumbo involved in any such endeavor. Organizations should ensure they protect their intellectual property when working with third-party consultants and insulate themselves from liability to app users to the extent possible. Depending on the type of information your app will collect or transmit, you may also need to ensure compliance with a variety of privacy laws applicable to consumer, health, or financial information. Therefore, we strongly recommend including your attorney in your app development planning from the very beginning.

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