Is your Nonprofit Organization considering a Mobile App?

Perhaps your nonprofit wants to keep your constituents “in the loop” and updated on your organization's latest efforts, impact stories, and events. Maybe you are doing that now using letters and newsletters through postal mail and emails. Perhaps you publish an annual report in PDF format or on your website. Maybe you even write regular blog posts or, better yet, create videos. These reasons are all good and all very powerful, but are you looking for a “new school” way to connect with your constituents?

Do you want to engage with your constituents and donors on a regular basis?

Do you have members and want to make special resources available to your members?

Do you want to reach them more quickly and more interactively?

Do you want them to reach you with just the click of an icon on their mobile device?

I would strongly recommend that you consider a Mobile Web App. There is more than you think in those 3 words. Let me give you a little background and make my case.

What is a Web App?

In the simplest terms it is an application or software program that runs in your browser. That browser can be on any type of device like a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. For those of you who are using cloud-based software on your laptop, you are basically using a Web App. These “Cloud” systems have really taken off in the business world. You access them on your laptop. Think of,,, Google Calendar, Microsoft Office365, and Google’s GSuite to name a few. In homes, activities such as watching TV and DVR recording are moving to the “cloud” and web apps through the “Cord Cutting” movement to streaming…,, and Just ask someone in their 20’s how they watch TV.

What is a Native App?

If you have a mobile device there is no question, you have used a Native App. Native Apps are software programs that run directly on a specific device (iPhone, Android, Windows) made for a specific operating system like Apple’s iOS or Android or Microsoft Windows. They are more equivalent to the old software programs you would purchase for your MAC or Windows PC. You installed them locally to your computer and ran them on that computer, saving any files generated from the program on that computer.

The other distinctive characteristic is you get them from an App Store. For mobile native apps, they are specifically downloaded through Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play store. Oh and by the way if the Native app has a cost, the owner/publisher of the native app pays about 30% of the sale to guess who? That’s right, Apple or Google.

Mobile Web Apps were the brainchild of Steve Jobs

With only the user in mind and a view on simplicity, Steve Jobs, the visionary of Apple, originally envisioned and launched the iPhone back in 2007 with Web Apps in mind. Here’s a quote from Steve Jobs as he spoke to developers at the launch of the first iPhone.

“The full Safari engine is inside of iPhone. And so, you can write amazing Web 2.0 and Ajax apps that look exactly and behave exactly like apps on the iPhone. And these apps can integrate perfectly with iPhone services. They can make a call, they can send an email, they can look up a location on Google Maps.” (Watch Steve Jobs make the announcement back in 2007)

Why Should a Nonprofit Organization Care?

I will be direct. A mobile Web App is the fastest, most direct, simplest, cheapest, and user friendliest way to get your Nonprofit into your constituent’s or donor’s “pocket”... well I mean … on their cell phone in their pocket.

Top 5 Reasons Nonprofits should consider Web Apps over Native Apps

-1- Discovery of your app

Have it discoverable through any search engine like Google. Link directly to it from your website or emails. No install, no multiple steps and extra clicking through to an App store. It is fast and they get right to the app with an option to add it to their mobile device.

-2- No installation required by users

For your users there is a low barrier to add the Web App to thier device since you don’t have to install it. Just a little help note box or popup on the screen to suggest adding the icon button to your device.

-3- Access on any device and across devices

It’s cross device compatible and portable so users can access it on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Across all computer or mobile operating systems: Apple iOS, macOS, Android, or Microsoft Windows.

-4- Initial development and long term support costs

Developing a Web App is a single development project, not one for Apple iOS and one for Android, resulting in lower development costs and ongoing support costs. Oh, and updating for constant changes in devices or technology is basically non-existent. Rolling out enhancements and design improvements are simpler and pushed to the user instantly. No need for the user to do anything to see the updates.

-5- Your CMS & CRM can Power the Web App

You don’t need to build a another system to power and publish to the Web App. It can be built and integrated with Content Management Systems (CMS) and Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems.

Case Studies

At BackOffice Thinking we do a lot of work where we integrate websites and CRM systems creating a user-friendly portal for nonprofit organizations. Recently we developed two very specific and useful mobile web apps for nonprofit organizations where we brought together their website CMS (Drupal) and their CRM (CiviCRM) into a member or volunteer portal Web App.

Web App for Tutors

We created a user-friendly mobile Web App for a nonprofit called Volunteer English Program in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It was created to help volunteer english language tutors manage their students on their mobile device. Read the case study with screenshots: Custom Tutor Portal App for English Volunteers.

Web App for Construction Industry Nonprofit

We just finished up a mobile web app to be used by members of the Construction Employers Association in Cleveland, Ohio to access an employee portal where they can search employees by id number or scan a badge and quickly view information about employees including certifications and trainings. The app accesses the mobile device’s camera so a construction site superintendent can scan a barcode on the employee badge and get instant information on the employee.


As the Executive Creative Director at BackOffice Thinking I’m focused on creatively seeking solutions in web technology that can be applied to the needs of nonprofit organizations, helping them have a greater impact with less resources. The incredible team I work with at BackOffice has the vision, design ability, and technical skills to bring all this together into a beautiful solution that crosses diciplines, platforms, data, and technologies. 

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