June 7, 2011

Does a mobile app make sense for your nonprofit?

Tap-n-Give app helps lay groundwork for other charity apps

Guest post by Tonia Zampieri
Smart Online

Does a mobile app make sense for your nonprofit? It depends.

If your organization has the capacity to support one, a mobile app can be not only a phenomenal branding tool but also an entirely new way to capture engaged supporters who spend a large amount of time on their mobile device. It provides a new channel to share content and, in some cases, even monetize content that previously would have been difficult to do.

Being a passionate nonprofit professional and self-professed mobile techie, I embarked on a journey in spring 2009 to launch a mobile app that would support nonprofits. It was a little crazy, but deep down I knew that mobile was where things were going.

My idea was simple: To create a tool that would deliver more awareness, engagement and financial support to important causes, all from a rapidly growing medium: smartphones! Imagine anyone with one of these devices having the ability to learn about, spread the word, raise funds, volunteer and more, all from their fingertips. How cool.

The outcome became Tap-n-Give (now defunct), an iPhone app available on iTunes during 2010 that supported a handful of nonprofits. The development cycle took nine months and cost $10,000. It was a pilot project with limited success, but the process — from market research to determining what the app would do to project management with the app development company — was quite an experience!

Learn from my mistakes

Here are some of the things I probably would have done differently (and will do differently for my next app!):

  1. Performed more consumer research about how a potential supporter would want to interact with their favorite nonprofit.
  2. Provided optional email address input instead of forcing the user to provide email upon app download.
  3. Explored other avenues to collecting the contact info throughout use of the app.
  4. Provided a free initial download with in-app purchase capabilities within the
    app and user experience.
  5. Created a more interactive use case involving a simple game or other utility that
    would encourage repeated use.
  6. App wasn’t very “sticky” and short on functionality due to a limited budget. Wait
    until more funding is available to make an investment and identify a clear ROI.
  7. Had a clearer marketing strategy about how the nonprofit partners would
    market the app for download – and how it would tie in with their existing
  8. Worked with a professional team who understood more than code but the use
    cases that would make for the most successful nonprofit focused app.

The learnings have been priceless, and I want to share them with you in the video above and in this Charity Mobile App Retrospective whitepaper. It’s time to hop on and get informed – here’s hoping these tools will be a solid start.

Tonia Zampieri is director of marketing at Smart Online, Inc. Connect with Tonia on Twitter or LinkedIn.
May 25, 2011

Apps for Change: Top mobile ideas from around the world


JD LasicaOver the past few weeks, Nokia held the first Apps for Change contest, inviting people from around the world to suggest a mobile application to benefit society — which Nokia has agreed to develop. The winners also get to steer a $10,000 contribution to a nonprofit organization.

Some 302 submissions were fielded from people in 53 countries. I was one of the judges in the contest (along with Jussi Hinkkanen, Peter Hirshberg, John M. Jordan and Juliette Powell), and we’re now announcing the winners.

The winning entry was Red Heart, submitted by Sana Refai and Kamel Seghaeir of Tunisia. The entry put it this way:

This application will help you to generate your blood donor’s networks. In case of emergency, you (or someone else) activates the search of your nearest person in your blood donor’s connection (GPS Localization) and contacts him to come give you help. By installing the application, you precise your blood group. When you add a new entry, the application decides whether your connection can be a donor or not according to her/his blood group. The application can be extends from a private network to a public community by creating a website gathering all blood donors worldwide …

We liked the idea of a mobile app being at the center of a process that brings together hospital or emergency workers and volunteers in the community in a way that benefits accident victims through the use of geolocation services. Such an app could allow a wide range of individuals in desperate need of a blood transfusion to find compatible donors in their geographical area. While Kamel and Sana’s app could be useful in developed countries, perhaps its greatest value could be found in developing economies, where mobile phones are ubiquitous – but advanced blood transfusion services are not.

Honorable mentions: Using the crowd to carpool — & more

The judges also singled out three other entries for special recognition:

• Seamus Maguire from Ireland submitted an idea for an app designed to increase the use of carpools, and thereby reduce an individual’s carbon footprint. Using such a mobile app, the user could view other nearby users in need of a ride. Continue reading

April 20, 2011

Community Code-a-thon comes to SF on May 6-7


One Economy, SF Goodwill, SF Dept. of Tech, Code for America & Socialbrite team up to develop mobile apps for social good

JD LasicaSave the date! On May 6 and 7, several public-spirited organizations — One Economy, San Francisco Goodwill Industries, Code for America, Socialbrite as well as the City of San Francisco’s Department of Technology — are coming together to put on a Community Code-a-thon.

With the Where 2.0 mobile technology conference taking place down the road in Santa Clara, Calif., this week (I attended yesterday and will return tomorrow), it’s a good reminder that the best mobile applications fill a gap in the marketplace.

A code-a-thon is where local developers come together and spend the day hacking on different ideas that could be teased out into a full-fledged mobile application. Unlike some other code-a-thons you may have heard of, this one is all about creating public-purpose mobile apps that improve the lives of people in the community.

To see an example of how this works, take a look at the top apps that emerged from the hack-a-thon held in Washington, D.C. this past Saturday.

Doing most of the heavy lifting for this effort is Arthur Grau, the tech force of nature who’s behind nonprofit One Economy’s Applications for Good. The Bay Area gathering offers $1,000 in prizes to the winners.

Code-a-thon: Have geek credentials? You’re invited

Here are the details:

When: May 6, a Friday, pitch session and social mixer, 3-5 pm; May 7, a Saturday, offers a full day of coding, ending with judging and announcement of winners.

Where: SF Department of Technology, 1 S. Van Ness Ave.

Who: The Code-a-thon is open to all community-minded programmers. A few case studies will be shared in advance to inspire the developers with examples of how mobile apps could be made available to community organizations and nonprofits

Cost to participate: Free. Register on Eventbrite and see the full Agenda. Food and snacks will be made available.

Organizers: One Economy, Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo & Marin Counties, Code for America, Socialbrite and the San Francisco Department of Technology. The daylong, developer-meets-community code event supports Applications for Good, One Economy’s national contest, launched in early 2011, where developers design public purpose mobile applications to help underserved Americans improve their lives. For this event, Code for America is expected to bring 10-12 developers.

Prizes: The day’s activities will offer seed prizes totalling $1,000 to engage developers to design and refine their work under the helpful eyes of experts in community and software development. It could lead to $50,000 in prizes to software developers who design applications that help families, find jobs, get healthy, improve education and build financial security in One Economy’s national contest, which runs through May 16 and is co-sponsored by AT&T. Other details are still being firmed up.

According to a Pew Research Center report, lower income households access the Internet at higher rates on mobile phones and devices because they do not have a computer at home. Those without computers and high speed Internet in the home are disproportionately people of color. African Americans and Latinos, with 87% owning smart or feature phones, are more likely to take advantage of a wide array of phone data functions.

Check out the Applications for Good website to see a rich best-of-apps catalog, needs and solutions pages.