Is Your Nonprofit Ready for a Mobile App?
About 85% of Americans own a smartphone, according to 2021 research conducted by the Pew Research Center. That’s up from the 35% who owned a smartphone when Pew conducted its first survey 10 years ago.
Americans increasingly turn to mobile phones when they make appointments, purchase products and services, check social media, perform web searches, and stream entertainment. As more nonprofits embrace technology, many consider custom-built mobile apps to better market, fundraise, deliver essential services, manage volunteers and engage more effectively with their audiences.
Mobile apps can solve problems in ways that are tailor-made for your nonprofit. But, how do you know when your nonprofit is ready for a mobile app? What are some of the typical activities, events, and functions needed by nonprofits for their mobile apps? And what are the standard requirements, costs and timelines associated with mobile app development?
When an Existing Solution Won’t Work
Nonprofits survive on very limited budgets. The resources they expend need to generate a return that sustains them. With such tight resources, there’s much less room to make a mistake and commit to the wrong mobile app, or the right one at the wrong time.
One way to approach this decision is to apply the 80/20 rule. If your existing technology or an off-the-shelf solution can support 80% of your requirements, going the extra mile (and spending the extra dollars) on a mobile app may not be the best option for your nonprofit.
Mobile Apps Can Deliver Functionality Specific to Your Needs
Custom-built mobile apps differ from other solutions in that they have been built to meet your requirements and not the requirements of an average customer whose business and processes likely differ from your nonprofit’s. There’s much less of a chance that you’ll need to adapt your business to match the mobile app’s functionality.
The unique nature of custom-built mobile apps means that there is no standard list of functions. For one North Carolina-based nonprofit whose mission is to help individuals challenged with addiction, the video and connective components of mobile apps could help it further the organization’s mission, connect with clients and tackle the problems with relapse that many suffered during the social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonprofits are very human-centric and tend to help people in underserved areas, so mobile apps become a convenient way to reach populations with individuals who have a phone, but no computer.
Mobile App Costs Vary, Set Project Parameters Early
The requirements, costs and timelines that go into mobile app development vary as much as the apps themselves. It’s important to get an upfront estimate so that both the nonprofit and developer agree regarding what the app will do, how it will do it, how much it will cost, and how much time and resources it will take to build.
When estimating the costs and resource requirements for a mobile app project, there are standard project components that nonprofits should consider, including:
- Requirement specification
- User-experience design
- Technical design
- User-interface development
- Logic development
- Quality-assurance testing
- Project management
However, as you define your mobile app and set the expectations for your project, it’s important to completely understand the process from beginning to end.
That said, there are ways to save money. In the case of the North Carolina-based nonprofit, it saved money by working with the developer to use a pre-existing software back end. With that repurposed back end, the developer were able to manage the input of content into the system, and the team saved the cost of building a new backend. The nonprofit instead focused its resources on developing the mobile app and investing the savings into further fulfilling other components of its mission.
Mobile Apps Can Be Great Tools for Nonprofits
Mobile apps might be the right investment for your nonprofit if you can’t find what you need in a pre-existing solution or you’ve tried and failed with your legacy technology systems. Designed right and adequately resourced, mobile apps can represent a sound investment for nonprofits that seek new and innovative ways to reach their clients and support their endeavors. Beyond websites, mobile apps can be more interactive, accessible, and successful in connecting nonprofits with their clients so that they can better accomplish their missions.
Thayer Tate is the chief technology officer at SOLTECH, an Atlanta software development and IT staffing firm. He has worked in technology and consulting for more than 20 years. Thayer's focus has been on the implementation and delivery of projects in all sizes. He has experience delivering projects in many methodologies as well. Thayer is passionate about technology and project delivery and is always happy to collaborate and share his experience with others.