What does Mobile look like for Nonprofits?

There is no debate on what the future of nonprofits in the mobile space looks like. It’s a must have. Although many nonprofits are resistant to the idea of doing anything in the mobile due to issues of cost, time and resources the future is staring them in the face. Currently there are over 5 billion devices worldwide and growing. According to the BBC in 2010 “In many regions, penetration exceeds 100%, where there is more than one connection per person in the country. Ben Wood, mobile phone analyst at CCS Insight said the mobile phone may be “the most prolific consumer device on the planet”.” What that means for nonprofits is that there are more than three times as many phones as personal computers.

So what are you going to do about this? Do you need an iphone app or Android App? The short answer is no. Not unless you have a compelling or marketable concept. So what do you need to do?

  1. Make sure your web site has a mobile component. How does it show up on when people look at it on a smart phone or other mobile device?
  2. Make sure your web site has the proper search engine optimization. Mobile searches will continue to grow and you want to make sure you show up.
  3. If you decide to make an app, avoid the iphone vs droid debate. Instead design your app in a web layer like HTML5 for maximum usage.
  4. Start with something easy that your supporters already like. The nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society turned their great print magazine into a magazine for the iPad2. (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/best-friends-magazine-hd/id418888506?mt=8)

So what apps are out there made by nonprofits? Lets a take a look at five of the interesting ones that I found. And big thanks to all the folks on Twitter who helped me find these.

1) name: Hike. supporting the American Hiking Society

link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hike-gps-trail-maps-supporting/id365960694?mt=8

description: Get outside, connect with and inspire your community to enjoy and protect your favorite trails with HIKE GPS app for the iPhone 3G and 3G S, powered by Intermap. Supports American Hiking Society, who has been on the forefront protecting the nation’s trails for more than three decades.

2) name: Consumer Reports Mobile Shopper

link: http://news.consumerreports.org/electronics/2010/10/consumer-reports-mobile-shopper-iphone-app-shop-products-ratings-search-facebook-deals.html

description: The new app allows you to scan a barcode of a product you’re interested in or search for it by keyword, and once identified, the app will show you Consumer Reports’ rating for the product, similar products from other manufacturers in the same category, and pricing information for multiple vendors. This way you can determine whether the product is worth your money and you’re getting a good deal by buying in the store or by shopping online.

3) name: National Park Field Guides App

link: http://www.npca.org/parks/app.html

description: The most versatile and interactive mobile field guide app available, NPCA’s new National Park Field Guide provides a complete view of a park wildlife, as well as a comprehensive ecosystem review of 50 national parks. Unlike any other mobile app on the market today, the guide includes bird portraits, call recordings, information about endangered and poisonous species, range maps, and wildlife. Users will also find current news about each park, access and visitor information, and directions to park visitor centers.


  1. name: Relay For Life App

link: http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/app/relay-for-life/id396001494?mt=8#

description: The American Cancer Society Relay for Life application is a great tool to track your fundraising progress, and to keep current on all Relay for Life news!  This is basically a fundraising app that connects to your online account and help you run your team, raise funds and edit your fundraising page on the go.


  1. Name: The Paramount Theatre App

link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-paramount-theatre/id335808020?mt=8

description: As Austin TX’s most historic theatre, history happens here nightly, and we’ve made history again by being the first non-profit performing arts theatre in the country with an iPhone app. Features include:

* Purchase tickets to all upcoming shows
* Get box office hours, purchase tickets by phone or shoot us an email
* Use GPS to get directions to the theatre
* Help support the theatre by becoming a member or making a donation
* Stay up-to-date on all Season Subscriber Notes
* Get our special updates regarding new events and availability

So what does the future hold for your nonprofits mobile plan? Is it a site upgrade? Is it a mobile app? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out my new book The Future of Nonprofits: Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age. Www.thefutureofnonprofits.com

One comment

  1. We’re lucky to benefit from talented staff that can create mobile apps in house so that the cost of design is minimal. As our mission is to provide free online education, our apps allow this to happen in even more places-it’s helping us achieve our mission. But for other non-profits I’ve worked with, a mobile app may not be necessary or relevant, although having a mobile website would be useful for almost any NPO I can think of.

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