Non-profit Organization’s Use of Technology

Who’s heart-strings aren’t pulled by the not-for-profit organizations in our world?  Well, our’s sure are, and as such, we’ve taken a vested interest in helping non-profits figure out which technologies they would benefit from spending their precious funds on, and which ones don’t bring enough value to warrant the expenditure.

Two such organizations that we’ve been working with are the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation, and a local K-8 school in our neighborhood.  In both cases the primary goal is to raise funds, but only slightly secondary to that goal is to provide a valuable experience to their audiences.  Our approach was different in each case, but the point for both was to work out a plan that would meet their goals and a timeline that worked with their budgets.

mobile app developmentApproach A: Build it in phases

Figure out what the “pie in the sky” dream (or epic) is, and then prioritize those goals into manageable chunks that can be accomplished over time (this is also known as Agile Programming). This way you get a “MVP” (minimum viable product) in the hand of the users more quickly so you can start getting their feedback. This is good when you are introducing something new to an audience that is used to you offering something else. They will point out what they miss about the previous offering, and what they like about the new one before you spend too much time and money developing what you thought they wanted. In the subsequent versions, you release more and more new features and possible remove things that aren’t as desirable as you thought they would be.

Check out the Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation mobile app for their Courage Classic bike tour (iOS & Android), and see what phasing in features can look like.  Other non-profits can learn quite a bit from this app and what all it offers the people they serve.

St. John's Men Who Cook mobile app

Approach B: Working prototype before development

Again, you definitely need to know what you want in the long run, but in this case, you build prototypes that include all or some of the features you want and test them on your audience before you build it (“it” being a mobile app, enterprise app, web app…).  In this case, we went a little beyond a working prototype and used a mobile app development tool called Como.  There are quite a few pre-built modules that you can customize to a certain extent – things like catalogs, loyalty cards, events, and Facebook feeds.  It’s not a perfect tool, and you’re at the mercy of their design, but it worked in this case to show the client what was possible and to be able get feedback from their audience before they invested a great deal of time and money into it.  The other benefit was speed to market.  This app is for a non-profit fundraising event coming up in a month, so we needed to get something out there well in advance so their audience could use it.  You can find the St. John’s Men Who Cook mobile app in Google Play to see what a working prototype can do.

So now we’ve told you about two possible approaches to building a custom software application.  In these cases they worked well for the clients, but they aren’t right for ever project.  We are always happy to talk with potential clients about their projects and work with them on the strategy that fits their situation.

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parse alternatives

Migration from Parse Options

Why would you need a Parse alternative?

You wanted to quickly ramp up a new mobile app, so you chose Parse to get it done. Excellent! It’s one of the oldest Mobile Backend as a Services (MBaaS) available. It’s mature. And it has a ton of great features.

The biggest “con” is that if it ever shuts down, you will have to quickly figure out the migration from Parse options.

Unfortunately, that day has happened. Parse just announced they’re winding down the Parse service, and Parse will be fully retired after a year-long period ending on January 28, 2017. That’s it! You have one year to get your stuff and move on. They claim they, “are proud that they’ve been able to help so many of you build great mobile apps”. But not so proud that they will continue the service.

This is a huge transition! Your whole backend has to be migrated to new servers and possibly new software. Maybe you’re thinking about moving to a new BaaS. Parse was not the first to shutdown, nor will it be the last. So, I understand it if you’re a little skittish about using another BaaS at the moment.

Luckily, On3 professional services has already moved a few clients off of cloud service systems like this to their own hosted environments. Most of which ended up being cheaper to maintain. We have also provided staffing of our resources on larger projects through Digital Enablement service.

We’ve got the experience, process and resources that will make move from Parse as easy as possible.

What are some of your options?

First, Parse is releasing a database migration tool that lets you migrate data from your Parse app to any MongoDB database. Once in Mongo, you need to build a whole new services layer on a new set of software and servers that has to be maintained. This is no small task and has lots of moving parts. But it will be yours to control, not some CEO of a tech company that you used to trust with your business.

Second, Parse is releasing the open source Parse Server, which lets you run most of the Parse API from your own Node.js server. Once you have your data in your own database, Parse Server lets you keep your application running without major changes in the client-side code. While this gets you off their servers with a “somewhat” functioning API, the software will not be maintained and some critical functionality will be missing.

You have come to rely on Parse, and they are leaving you in the dust. There are a lot of options. Options that can be customized to your business. We are here for you and will strive to make this transition as easy and straightforward as possible.

Still have questions?

Schedule a free consultation

One size does not fit all, especially for your business. There are several options across multiple infrastructures, software and languages that could be a fit.

We will advise you on the environment that is best for your business.

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