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How Nonprofits And Charities Can Build One Mobile App That Works On All Platforms

MobileAccessible Technology

By: Fung Wu, iNotForProfit

There is a misconception that creating a mobile app is not viable for the philanthropy sector. We learned, from a fantastic open dialogue on the TechSoup forum about Mobile App vs. Mobile Web (sparked by our Twitter discussion), that there are 3 main reasons people don’t feel mobile apps are accessible:

  • Importance of supporting constituents across devices – meaning, only needing to create one mobile responsive website (i.e. one that looks good on mobile phones) vs. having to create multiple apps for multiple platforms.
  • Expertise required to create a responsive website is easier and less costly to find than is it to create mobile apps.
  • Updating a mobile website is less time-consuming and tedious than updating (possibly) multiple apps.

This is no longer true. Thanks to advances in technology, such as HTML5, mobile apps can be accessible and viable for the philanthropic community!

What Is HTML5?

Put simply, HTML is the technology behind just about every web page (it may be a bit of an overstatement, but HTML powers the web!). The latest version, HTML5, added a lot of really powerful and dynamic features focused on giving people a rich experience – including audio and video – so that their browsing experience could parallel the engaging feel of a native app.

Here’s the super cool news: thanks to technology like Cordova, an HTML5 webpage with all its rich and interactive experience can be transformed into an app that anyone can download from the Apple App Store, Google Play or BlackBerry World (and it looks and feels like a native app)!

What Does This Mean For Your Cause?

It means you have options. It means the ball is back in your court.

Because of its flexibility, HTML5 apps can be developed cost effectively once and work just like a native app across all platforms. So you no longer need to choose only one mobile platform (iPhone, Android, Blackberry) or develop one-app-at-a-time. Now you build one app and it’s available pretty much wherever you want.

So I’m saving time and money?

Generally speaking, yes. Since you no longer have to pay per platform, and since HTML5 allows you to update all your apps at one time instead of one-at-a-time, it is less time and money consuming.

Complex apps can still be expensive and difficult to update (for example, building a custom game into your app), but it’s unlikely you need to go that far. Complicated apps, with all the bells and whistles, do not necessarily equal success.

What’s really important is whether your app is informational or utilitarian. No matter how much time or money you spend, if your app does not consistently provide new content or aid your user’s daily life in some way, it will not make an impact. 

A great example of how an HTML5 app can be cost effective and easy to update is THEMUSEUM’s app.

By leveraging much of their existing work, and focusing on what’s important (their content), we were able to build an app that:

  1. They can easily update on their own via a content management system (CMS)
  2. They only need to update periodically, since most of their content is either preloaded (e.g. Membership) or will update on its own (e.g. Facebook).

Putting It All Together

Are there more web designers out there? Yes.

Does that mean there are no realistic (resource-wise) mobile app options for the philanthropic community? NO.

The point is, thanks to technology, this is the age of philanthropy!

Your message is important. If you can’t have both mobile web and mobile app (the ideal situation), your choice should be based on the goals of your cause and needs of your audience. You should NOT have to worry about which option is the viable. Your only worry should be: “Which tool(s) will best help us spread our message, drive engagement, increase donations, and start a dialogue?”

About the Author
Fung is the Chief Marketing Officer of iNotForProfit – a social enterprise dedicated to providing next-generation technology for the philanthropic sector, to help them spread their message, connect communities to their cause, and fundraise more effectively. Fung joined iNotForProfit because she knew she could perfectly blend her business sense and nonprofit values to make a difference. Having served on the Board of Directors of a social advocacy nonprofit and having worked at a nongovernmental organization, Fung understands the needs and challenges of the sector. She uses business expertise, from her years as a Marketing Consultant in a Fortune 500 company and small business, to create solutions to meet those needs. Fung holds an MBA from HEC Paris School of Management and a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

iNotForProfit is a social enterprise using next-generation technology to create accessible solutions for the philanthropic sector. Social media has changed the way we engage; just as online donations has changed fundraising. Mobile apps are not only a part of this change, but also the future of impact. Our mission is to help them spread their message, connect communities to their cause, and fundraise more effectively.

Twitter:        @inot4profit