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I'm very excited to introduce a new Microsoft-funded
project we're working on here at TechSoup, called "App It Up." Apps
can be very helpful tools: they can help engage and inform constituents, tell
your organization's story, and improve your internal workflows. However, many
nonprofits and libraries aren't using apps, for various reasons. The App It Up
project is here to help, by identifying - and even creating - apps specifically for nonprofits
First, a quick definition. We're thinking of apps
in a pretty specific way for this project. An "app" is a small piece
of software that performs a discrete function, with limited or targeted
functionality. Apps can be used online (a web app), on a mobile device (a mobile
app), or as an add-on to existing software tools (widgets, plug-ins, templates, and so on).
We're not really looking at full-fledged
applications, like a Microsoft Office Suite, or software as a service, like Salesforce. Instead, we're looking at small apps that do a little bit of
something interesting. For example, an app that maps your community's local
endangered species habitats or your organization's facility locations, or a handy add-on for your constituent relationship management system (CRM) or content management system (CMS). For libraries, maybe an app that lets patrons manage
their accounts or a web browser plug-in that shows whether a book they're
searching for online is available at their local library.
Apps can be created as stand-alone tools (like the
mobile apps most of us think of when we think of apps), by the original
software developers, or by third parties (as plug-ins or add-ons). Some
nonprofits and libraries are even creating their own apps. More on that in a
Right now we're in the discovery stage of the
project: finding out what nonprofits and libraries currently use apps for, what
they might want apps to do, and whether there are existing apps that meet those
needs. We've already reached out to nonprofits and libraries via surveys and
discussions, and we've gotten a lot of interesting feedback.
Our next step is to translate the survey and outreach
results into requirements:
In the next few months we'll also be hosting an app
developer event to give developers the chance to create new, useful nonprofit-
and library-relevant apps. We're very excited about this - we love a good
hackathon. We'll also be sharing the existing apps we find in an upcoming
"Cool App Roundup" series here on the blog.
Stay tuned! There's good stuff coming.
Meanwhile, if you haven't already
shared your thoughts with us, please weigh in here in the comments. Are there any
go-to apps you find especially helpful? Is there anything cool or creative or
interesting your organization is doing app-wise?
Or, is there anything you'd
really like to be doing with an app, but don't
have the tools to do right now? What would you want an app to do? How could
apps help fulfill your organization's mission?
We'd love to hear from you!
by Ariel Gilbert-Knight, Director, Content, TechSoup
I'd like to see an app for that QR code...I am a techy novice and could use something like that.
Hi! We had a iPhone App built for a pretty low cost. I looked for a long time and found these UK guys that did it for less than $500. You can download it for free on the iTunes. Look for Whitley county humane society to check it out, we can update the animals, and info 24/7
I would like several things: A simple build-it-yourself app for non-profits similar to the ones available for businesses with modestly priced hosting so we can develop apps for our constituent organizations.
Also: I would like to be able to develop a news feed with items from major media, facebook and twitter on the subject of our non-profit. As a multi-faith group, we would also like a "daily prayer" app for our different faith groups.
Hi there. First, thanks everyone for the input. Keep it coming!
WhitleyCounty: Thanks for sharing. I downloaded your app, and it looks great! Nice clean layout and navigation, and it covers all the bases – adoptable animals (so many cuties out there), shelter and adoption info, news, upcoming events, even donations. It's great that you were able to get your app built at a reasonable price, too.
Nancy: I know there are a lot of app development tools out there, and I'd be interested to hear more about what orgs have used, or what they'd need to know in order to use one of those tools, especially the level of technical expertise and time/resources needed. On your next wishlist item, there are definitely tools out there that help combine feeds from media and social networking sources. How do you envision using the feed? Internally, to keep up on a relevant subject? Or as a way of sharing information with your supporters via your website or via a mobile app? We've heard from a few faith-oriented orgs that they're interested in a prayer app. It seems this is an unaddressed need for orgs.
Shouters: I don't have an app in mind, but below are some QR code resources you might find helpful, including Idealware's QR code basics, Beth Kanter's roundup of QR code info, and Frogloop and Nonprofit Tech2.0 on how nonprofits can use QR codes.
I am new to this group and I notice that the comments are a year old but I hope that you are still checking...
I am trying to learn about apps and how we might incorporate them into our media but I am so new that the term "hackathon" is scary...aren't hackers something we dread?
I worry that just using that term might turn some people off from using the product.
Now, that being said, I am very interested in reaching our clients and the public.
We provide puppies and help people with disabilities train their own service dogs. An app that shows training schedules, updates, changes, requirements, etc. would be very helpful.
Also something to notify people about available puppies that can be easily updated would be great.
News and info about the ADA laws is a great app too.
So many things, so many ideas; I just need to get past the "hacker" phobia! Thanks!
Thanks for the feedback and the good ideas about apps you'd like to see!
Hackers are sill often thought of as a scary, bad thing. A hackathon, hack day, or code day is when computer programmers/developers get together to do a bunch of intensive development on software applications in a day or week-long sprint. It's a great way to put a lot of minds together at once to create.
Some people refer to them as "barn-raisings" in reference to communities that would come together to help raise a barn for a family. Hackathons are a similar concept of bringing people together to find solutions through technology.
We're continuing to work on apps for nonprofits and libraries, most recently through our program with Microsoft called Transforming Communities.
We just hosted a free app webinar last Thursday that showed some great examples of apps in the works and many that are available for different nonprofit purposes now (accepting donations via mobile phone, collecting data on the go, crowdsourcing, games for change, etc). You can view the archived webinar and resources discussed.
We'll be hosting a "part two" free app webinar on November 29 at 11 a.m. Pacific time. Read more about the event here and join us to learn and share.