Jeremy Bartley

Do you really need an app for your nonprofit?

As more and more companies take to the app store, nonprofits are beginning to ask if they need to develop an app for their organization as well. In an effort to save you hours of debate and money spent on a trend, here are four questions I’ve asked nonprofits as a former app developer to help them reach a decision. After considering the following questions, 80 percent of organizations decided not to build an app.

Question #1

Does the app fulfill a unique purpose?

Too often an app becomes a glorified website instead of a unique piece of technology outside of the nonprofit’s website. Apps should add value to the user that only can be achieved through a smartphone. If it does not, the user won't use it and will end up deleting it. Just because an app may make a specific task easier still doesn’t mean it’s valuable. For example, your organization doesn’t need an app just to make signing a document easier when it can already be done on the website. If the technology of your website can facilitate the needs of your nonprofit, don't waste money on the app just to say you have one.

Question #2

Are you solving a problem for the user?

Stop and think about the apps you use on a regular basis. How many of them are from a nonprofit? My guess; none of them. You don't use apps from nonprofits because they don't solve a problem for you. The apps that do best in this overly saturated market are ones that solve a problem. For some, that problem might have to do with lack of entertainment and for others, it might have to do with business. If you are going to spend money on creating an app it has to be something people will use on a regular basis. Run your app idea by the people that you expect to use it and ask for their thoughts on it. If the idea is something that adds value and solves a problem, they will let you know.

Question #3

Is it worth the investment?

Let's say your app idea does solve a problem, but will enough people use the app to make it worth the investment? Building an app requires $25,000 at a minimum and upwards of $100,000. Before you spend the money, do your best to quantify what success looks like and how many users it would take to achieve that.

Question # 4

Is there already software that fits your needs?

There is an abundance of software available that could be used to solve your problem and white labeled with your branding. More than likely, the idea you have for an app has already been created to be sold to you. Layout exactly what you’re needing and research an application that fits those needs. You will probably find some that are very similar to your idea. Most of the time you can submit feature requests to the provider if you see something lacking in the software.

Be honest with yourself when answering these questions. In my experience, most nonprofits don't need an app. Instead of focusing time and money on creating an app that won’t be used, focus it on improving your website and ensuring it works perfectly on all platforms.