Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 27 seconds

numbers-5We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that,” but what does that mean for the nonprofit professional? There’s a bit of debate brewing in the community about whether or not apps, such as those that can be accessed and utilized through smartphones, are even worth the time, effort, and cost associated with them.
That is to say, many people don’t believe that nonprofits should invest in the research and development required to create their own apps.

On the other hand, there are a lot of apps out there that can be downright handy for nonprofit professionals. Rather than debating the merits of creating your own app, we’re going to take a look at what’s already out there that may be of use to your nonprofit organization. There are a variety of important tasks that have to be accomplished on a regular basis, and if they can be done more efficiently, then that’s all for the better, right? After all, who doesn’t want to be more efficient, deal with less paperwork, or find non-labor-intensive ways to raise additional funds?

So, after doing some research, here what very well may be the top five applications for nonprofits, as put together from sources such as PC Mag, Mashable, and CNN.

  • Causes - This application is available through Facebook and provides a realistic way for nonprofits to communicate with their supporters on a variety of subjects. Causes allows you to create campaigns directed at specific goals, such as fundraising, awareness, and even collecting signatures on a petition. One of the nice things about Causes is that it’s completely integrated into Facebook, where the majority of your audience is probably already spending time.
  • First Giving - There are several apps out there that allow you to fundraise for your organization, but FirstGiving is interesting in that it allows other people to fundraise on your behalf. In this case, your supporters can set up their own pages through FirstGiving and then promote them to their friends, family, Facebook and Twitter followers, etc. An organization that promoted this well could end up with hundreds of volunteers sharing pages with their networks, bringing in whole new donor audiences. FirstGiving keeps five percent of donations. Another app along these lines that you might want to consider is GiveZooks, although there is a subscription fee of $129.
  • Sparked - Sparked allows individuals to offer a variety of in-kind donations to nonprofits that have a profile on the volunteer network. Whether you need copywriting, graphic design, or questions about how to get more traffic to your blog, you can post challenges and have interested volunteers offer up their talents to meet your needs. It’s basically crowdsourcing for those who have a passion for nonprofits, and the challenges are even broken down according to cause so that volunteers can find projects that align with their values and interests.
  • Dropbox - Dropbox allows you to access your files from any of your devices. Any time you change something in your Dropbox from one of these devices, it updates that information for any of the device you might later use to retrieve it. This means that a document you created at work can be available to you via your smartphone, laptop, or home desktop. Additionally, more than one person can have access to a Dropbox, allowing for file sharing. Some people and organizations even use the cloud-based Dropbox a tool for backing up their systems.
  • Expensify - This app gives nonprofit professionals a way to keep track of various expenses that need to be accounted for. For example, it can log your mileage for you, something that’s particularly important if you’re being reimbursed or claiming it on your taxes at the end of the year. If you’re making purchases for the organization, Expensify will even allow you to snap a picture of your receipt and extract the important data for you. While this is all great, there are some obvious benefits for organizations who work with volunteers who aren’t always so great about turning in their expense reports in a timely fashion!
Bonus App for Nonprofits

If you’re just itching to find even more apps that will integrate with your nonprofit organization’s operations, you might also want to check out BestVendor. It’s an app that helps you find apps! BestVendor recommends apps based on those used and recommended by others in your field. To get started, you share three of your favorite apps, and then you are able to access what others have shared. Recommendations are based on your specific needs, as well as your industry, which means you’ll be introduced to apps that other nonprofit professionals are finding essential to their work.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of apps available, and no one can be expected to sift through them all to find what is going to be the best fit for their organization. Of course, there’s a reason that there are so many apps out there; and that’s because they fill a need. Whether you’re looking for an easier way to do something, more mobility while staying productive, or something else entirely, there may very well be “an app for that.” This list gives you a place to start your search.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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