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Do Geolocation Mobile Apps Make Sense for Nonprofits?

Busy, hectic schedules may be preventing some from doing what they can to make a difference with a simple donation to help better another's life. What if you were able to donate from your mobile phone?

Nonprofits may not think that creating a mobile app is for them, but most mobile phone users have Internet and data plans. Even if your donors and audiences aren't mobile surfing yet, most likely they will be soon. Recent statistics from on media consumerism show that 90% of mobile subscribers have an Internet-ready phone.

Mobile apps seem to be one of the first things that come to mind when marketers develop a mobile strategy. Why? Would you rather sit in front of your PC, type in the web address, and wait for the site to open, or just turn on your mobile phone and have instant access to content with just the touch of a button? The answer is becoming clear, since about 64 percent of mobile time is spent using apps, according to AlexaInternet.

Create a Presence For Your Nonprofit on FourSquare

Add your nonprofit and then, when people are in the area, you will pop up on their FourSquare application, maybe with a notification about a supporter action alert. This is a great way for nonprofit organizations that primarily interface with donors online to connect in a new way. It may attract walk-in visitors, allowing front desk staff to engage new advocates and to capture email addresses and social media profiles so you can build an online relationship with this walk-in visitor. Also, your nonprofit may want to produce some take-away materials related to your cause to leave at the front desk for potential walk-ins.

Add Information About Your Cause and the Ability to Donate On Your Profile

For most nonprofit supporters, this seems to be the easiest for them to understand. Put fast facts about your nonprofit organization and your cause, and link to a mobile-friendly webpage where supporters can take immediate action. By letting supporters take action instantly, you can reduce information overload, something that often happens on traditional websites. This allows you to get users' attention so they can take action for your cause. Take it a step further, and give them badges for completing tasks, which may include things like sending an email on your behalf or signing a petition.

Check-in at Events

This FourSquare feature won't draw as many people to an actual event as Facebook will, so why not set up a Facebook event and FourSquare check-in to allow supporters to do check-in at both. Think about the last rally or event you attended and how many people were snapping photos, updating their statuses, checking in, and Tweeting. They are essentially evangelizing for you to their own select audiences! The check-in feature has some potential for messaging and crowd-focusing, but not really for turnout. Once supporters have checked-in, they could receive messages and follow up communication, as well as dynamic logistical information.


This is a great way to have supporters brag about your nonprofit. Every time a supporter checks-in to an event or rally, they can tell everyone about your and other nonprofits' great work. This feature is great for establishing coalition building, network strengthening, and general movement-generation. Think about how helpful it would be to engage others in your cause each time a supporter gave your nonprofit virtual praise when they came to volunteer, stopped by to pick up flyers, or attended an event.

iPhone and iPod Apps

There are apps for iPods and iPhones that are already created and available that can re-energize fundraising. Supporters can download and start donating to a cause right away, making it easier than ever to help others.

Make Poverty History
This app allows you to support the fight against poverty and spread awareness with a custom white band wallpaper that is displayed on your iPhone or iPod. It's an inexpensive way to give, only 99 cents, and 100 percent of the profits go to charity.

Give Work

Give Work is a free app designed to benefit the refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or Haiti. This app is a little strange: It asks you to complete a task on your phone and a person in a developing region will do the same thing. Your partner will get paid for both tasks. Their services include "data entry, book digitization, Internet-based research, business listings verification, audio transcription, and video captioning."

Every time you complete a task, you support a refugee in two ways - by generating income that goes to their digital training, and your task's accuracy scores help develop and design training programs for the future. The points you create with each task can be traded in by refugees, and a little goes a long way. For example, you can earn 5 points for answering a question about personal finances. Five points is enough to buy a tomato, a large banana, and a small bunch of greens for the refugee. For a little time taken out of your day, you can do a lot of good.


Compassion is another app for your iPhone or iPod that gives you access to information from its blog about child poverty. It also connects you to the organization's Facebook Page and Twitter feed. Compassion International is a Christian child advocacy group that began providing Korean War orphans with aid and Christian values. This app allows you to search through profiles of children in need of aid in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean to choose who you'd like to sponsor. You may donate directly to the Disaster Relief Fund if sponsorship is not for you.

Donation Connect

Donation Connect brings all your charities right to a donor's iPhone or iPod. Users just scroll through a list of participating charities and tap the Donate button, and a donation is made to their charity of choice. The amount will then be charged to their wireless bill or deducted from their prepaid balance.

Other Options for Engagement via Mobile

Nonprofits can potentially benefit big by adding a mobile app to their marketing and fundraising toolkit. Other tools may include mobile web, SMS, MMS, tablets, or even mobile bar codes. The goal of many organizations is to help tell a story. SMS may be a great way for nonprofits to tap into mobile. SMS can be used with a more interactive element like mobile Web to give users an emotional hook and encourage them to take action. It may even be tied to a higher return on investment for nonprofits because MMS is typically more expensive. Mobile bar codes can drive engagement; however, the main challenge is how to place them strategically.

In order to determine the best messaging route, it is important for a nonprofit organization to first analyze its business goals. Mobile apps that also include themed games, geolocation services, and the ability to make donations not only make your organization more accessible, but it's an easy, fun way to reach out to advocates.

When deciding to tap mobile, nonprofits need to assess where their users are accessing content. If five to eight percent of digital traffic is being generated from handsets, mobile needs to be on the horizon for an organization. Once traffic generates ten percent of traffic, it should be a clear signal that there needs to be a mobile element to give users an optimized experience. All in all, the whole idea with geolocation tools like FourSquare or the iPod and iPhone apps really seem to be catching on, nonprofit supporters need to think about how they can use it effectively.


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