If you’re fundraising or seeking volunteers, it may feel like you’ve already exhausted all available channels. But have you considered creating a mobile app for your organization? With 77 percent of Americans now owning smartphones, it’s definitely something you should consider. After all, the best way to get the attention of volunteers and donors is to seek them out where they are.
So, where do you begin? We have some things to consider as you get started. A mobile app is something that will take time and effort and should be a project that is sustainable over time. While it will be a significant investment, the return could be very impactful for your organization – especially as smartphone use continues to increase year-after-year.
Set a goal.
What do you want to achieve with a mobile app? While you can (and should!) offer as much as you can through your app, you should still have an objective to keep you on track and measure your app’s success. Do you want to offer the ability for volunteers to sign up for upcoming projects? Do you want to increase donations? Do you want to stay connected with your audience?
Being able to connect with your supporters through their personal mobile devices is probably the most powerful argument for creating a mobile app.
Once you’ve determined your goal, ask how you’ll use the app to reach it. If there is a way to make your app interactive by enabling your audience to interact with you or other app users, that is ideal. If your goal is to raise money, consider sharing stories to make a connection with your potential donors and show the value of their donations to your organization.
If your goal is to increase volunteer sign-ups for projects, create a community where volunteers can share their experiences and post photos. You can, in turn, use those photos and stories on social media and in your marketing to share what your volunteers are doing in the community.
Consider your options.
There are three ways to develop a mobile app for your nonprofit. Each one has its pros and cons. As you make a decision, look back to the goal you set and make sure you’ll be able to achieve it.
- Web-based – works as a mobile webpage and doesn’t actually download to the user’s phone. Instead of being an icon in the app store, this type of “app” creates a bookmark, taking up minimal storage space. One con is that a poor web connection on your user’s phone may impact your app’s performance.
- Native – this app would be designed for a specific mobile network like Apple or Android. The con is that having to recreate the app across multiple platforms costs more time and money.
- Hybrid – a Hybrid app is the best (and worst) of both worlds. Functioning as an app, it is still web-based – meaning it’s easier to update and maintain than a Native app. However, performance will still be based on a web connection.
Choose an app provider.
Once you’ve completed your initial planning and research, it’s time to choose a provider. A quick Google search will offer you a list of national providers that design apps specifically for nonprofits. Most of these will be cookie-cutter apps branded for your organization, although you can also have one created with your specific needs in mind.
You may have local app designers that you could work with instead of going with a national agency. The benefits of this would be supporting your community and possibly getting a price break. Consider asking a local app designer to give you a discounted rate and in return, they can have a design credit within the app. They may also be able to write off their time and resources as a donation on their taxes.
Does your nonprofit have a mobile app? How has it improved your marketing efforts?
Create a long-term plan.
Remember, your work doesn’t end once the app is created. It’s important to put together a plan for marketing your app and continuing to test it. Your plan should include immediate efforts to get momentum for your app – which will require a portion of your marketing budget. Market to your audience where they can download the app right away – on their phone! Boost social media posts or schedule ads that link directly to the app store.
Be prepared to take feedback from users and implement it as fast as you can. No matter how much testing you do, there will inevitably be “bugs” that get missed or overlooked. Book additional hours with your app provider for at least the first six months to ensure you’ll have the support you need to maintain good user experience.
Over time, your app may become just another icon on a phone screen. To avoid your app becoming stagnant, be sure to utilize the ability to send notifications to app users so that they are continually engaged with your brand. Creating a mobile app for your organization may seem like a big undertaking, but with some research and planning, it will be easier than you think.