Mobile Technology and Events: Keys For a Successful Mobile App

For nonprofits, mobile is quickly becoming a go-to strategy for donor engagement, relationship building, fundraising, and marketing. Mobile apps can offer a completely new avenue for supporters to interact with your nonprofit and can expose your organization to those who otherwise never would have encountered it. Considering that by 2015 mobile web usage is expected to exceed all other web usage, mobile is integral to a successful digital strategy.

To be successful, you need to be up-to-date on the latest trends in how mobile technology can be used to advance your nonprofit. The competition to grab supporters’ attention is fierce. A strong mobile strategy can differentiate your organization.

Mobile event apps are just one type of mobile application gaining huge popularity. That’s because event details are accessible on the move through these apps and not reliant on a WiFi connection. Savvy nonprofit organizers recognize the advantages of custom event apps to simplify the event experience for staff. In addition to making it easier for organizers to manage the event and provide better experiences for attendees, event apps are excellent marketing and promotion tools to advance your cause. Mobile event apps can provide rich content and context about the event, which can drive sales and attendance.

Working at Saforian has given me an opportunity to see how event apps can truly benefit nonprofits. Saforian designed and developed a customized mapping application for the nonprofit Share Our Strength, for the organization’s annual Great American DineOut event. DineOut is a month-long fundraising effort to end childhood hunger in America and is one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most successful cause-related marketing programs. Participating restaurants throughout the U. S. sign up to host promotions of their own design and donate a percentage of sales.

Using location-based services, the mobile app for the DineOut event allowed supporters to quickly find nearby participating restaurants on the go. Saforian incorporated platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for increased audience engagement, and OpenTable to let supporters make reservations without having to leave the app.

As with any event app, performance and reliability throughout the event’s life cycle is crucial. The development team at Saforian enhanced performance and reliability by using HTML5, jQuery, jQuery Mobile, and Google V3 Map front-end technologies as well as robust back-end tools.

The custom backend database tool centralized all of the app’s restaurant and activity data in one system to allow for more accurate reporting and improved internal staff workflows. This allowed event organizers to get instant updates and proactively prevent issues. The back-end administration allowed internal staff to monitor and report on activity in real time, significantly reducing overhead costs. Overall, the month long campaign led to over $5 million in support for the No Kid Hungry cause.

Creating a truly successful nonprofit event app is easier said than done.

With the advent of mobile apps, app markets, and online stores, users are inundated with an ever-growing number of choices, with almost infinite purposes and capabilities. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available, and it can be almost impossible to stand out in the crowd. So how do you distinguish your app?

Here are some insights I gained from working on the Portland 2013 DrupalCon app for their upcoming technology conference about how to make your mobile app stand out.

  1. Consider your audience
    Make sure your app matches your audience’s needs for the event. In the early stages of developing this app, we brainstormed the top reasons why someone at DrupalCon would want to use an app. For example, we determined they would need a schedule of the sessions with room numbers, conference speakers, and course level of difficulty. They also would want to maximize their time in Portland and find fun things to do without going through the hassle of researching. Finally, they would want an easy way to connect with other attendees (we incorporated a Twitter feed).
  2. Be memorable
    Apps that perform poorly or don’t offer real value to users won’t create any buzz. Don’t be afraid of coloring outside the lines. For example, the app for DrupalCon in Portland has a quirky, eye-catching logo of a lumberjack punching a bear. We paired vivacious illustrations with a creative backstory about the app’s three characters to give the app personality – and Portland flair.
  3. Make it interactive
    We also integrated intuitive gesture controls to make the app both easy to use and fun. Gesture-based animations are seeded throughout the app, including a fistfight between a man and a grizzly bear, and a spinning session track wheel.

So whether your goal is to better connect your community with avenues to donate and volunteer, or to keep your constituents connected to each other and to the events you’re facilitating – no matter where they are – mobile is becoming an ever more crucial component of organizational strategies. Special event and campaign apps put your organization’s message and calls-to-action literally at the fingertips of your stakeholders.

Beth Burghardt
Content Strategist
Beth is a recent graduate of James Madison University and has a B.A. in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication. She is currently a content strategist at Saforian, a web design company that builds websites, mobile apps, and other digital tools for the nonprofit, association, government, healthcare, commercial, and education industries. She develops content and social media strategies for clients, manages the company’s social media presence, and heads up marketing initiatives. Contact Beth by email or follow her on Twitter.