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Applications For Good: How to Build An App For A Cause

| December 16, 2020

Do you care about your fellow humans? If not, do you know someone who does? No, I’m not soliciting you or your philanthropic buds for money. I’m asking you to step outside the box for a second.

For most appsters, Android and iOS app development means having this amazing idea that will change our entire mobile existence as we know it. But what if you haven’t quite perfected your idea for an app yet? Or you don’t quite know what kind of app you want to make, but live each day with appstering appstership becoming an appster running in your DNA? If this sounds like you, here’s a thought: while you let your ideas for your own app-making journey marinate, how about helping a great cause start theirs first?

Building mobile apps for nonprofits, charities, or special causes is a great way to learn more about the app industry and the app development process – all while helping to make a difference.

Apps for a Cause: Learn to Build an App that makes a Difference


There are three great reasons why you’d want to build apps for a cause:

  1. The nonprofit/causes niche is an unsaturated market.

We’ve talked about app niches before and how niche markets are easier to break into than oversaturated ones, such as games and social apps. The nonprofit/causes niche is one of those relatively untapped markets that are just waiting for developers to dive into and help organizations with their missions. Nonprofit and charity apps also span multiple niches, giving you market reach and flexibility.


  1. A great way to test-drive the app development process.

Building apps for charity is a great way to learn about app development without having to shell out a huge investment or take your own time putting a team together. Most organizations already have plenty of resources you can tap into, from designers who have graphics ready to go and marketing teams who “get” the organization’s mission. They may even have developers they’ve partnered or contracted with for other ventures, but just need someone like you to head the project. You’ll get a chance to see first-hand what it’s like to manage the app development process and then apply the experience to your own project.

  1. An opportunity to get paid to do what you love.

Here’s an open secret amongst contractors and freelancers: nonprofits do pay. As freelancer Jennifer Mattern says, Nonprofit does NOT mean non-paying:

“I used to work in the nonprofit sector and have dealt with organizations big and small. It’s amazing how much some of their management is paid, and it’s even more amazing how much money can actually be wasted. The fact that an organization isn’t trying to earn a profit does not mean the organization has no operating costs. Those operating costs include paying for professional services from regular employees and specialized contractors alike.”

Not all organizations have the budget to pay app developers, but many do. Think about the causes you or people you know care about and do some sleuthing. Could XYZ organization use an app to expand its reach, create a more connected community, or otherwise generate more awareness for their cause? If you can find an organization that’s willing to pay you to build their app or manage the project, then you’ve got an excellent opportunity to help a cause and get paid to do what you love.

  1. Get involved with causes you care about.

Along with being an opportunity to develop your skills, building an app for a nonprofit can also be a chance to get involved with a cause you care about. Of course, you will build on your skills and get paid to do something you love, but you can take additional pride in your work knowing that it is all going toward a goal that is going to make a real difference. Whether you want to build a nonprofit app to raise money, recruit volunteers or share information, you can feel good about the fact that you were able to use your abilities to have a positive impact on a cause you care about.

Tips for Creating a Successful Charity App

Building apps for charity will in many ways be similar to building an app for a business. The following are a few tips for building mobile apps for nonprofits:

  • Intuitive User Interface: The app needs to be easy to use. People will go out of their way to participate in a charity if they care, but you don’t want the app to be difficult. The easier the app is for users, the better it will serve the charity it is built for.
  • Easy Signup: Creating accounts can be a barrier for some app users. Make the process easy by allowing users to create accounts and sign-in using their social media accounts.
  • Payments: The ability to accept donations will be key for many nonprofit apps. Beyond just offering the option to make donations, you want the process to be user-friendly. Make it easy to make donations and try to integrate as many payment options as possible when building mobile apps for nonprofits.
  • Notifications: An app can be a valuable communications channel for charities. Along with having messaging in the app, you should use notifications to reach users. Notifications can be used to provide timely updates to users and to keep them engaged. They can also be used to make sure people are aware of events or to drive action during times that are significant to the charity.
  • Social Media: Most of the app users are going to be social media users as well. Integrate features that allow for things like sharing, posting and liking from the app. Users are going to want to share their experiences with the app and this can be a good way to raise awareness.
  • Gamification: Look for ways to make the app an interactive, gamified experience. A gamified charity app will be good at increasing engagement and it can also work to get more people involved. It doesn’t even have to be anything too complicated. Something as simple as making different actions worth points or badges can be a good way to keep people motivated as they participate through the app.

 Working with nonprofits, charities, and other special causes is a fulfilling experience that gives you a chance to get involved and help make a difference. Being able to add it to your resume and apply what you learn to your own ventures is the sweet, sweet cherry on top.

Image: Ron Mader

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