Non-profit Organization’s Use of Technology

By Mollie Rusher In Mobile Development, Software Development, User Experience (UX) February 10, 2016

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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