Three Ways Mobile Apps Can Help Grow Your Community

Getting people to support their cause is a challenge many nonprofits face. However, the nonprofits that can mobilize a strong supporter base gain an increased ability to sustain funding and the means to spread a wider net of impact.

Traditionally, building a supporter base has meant that organizations were simply good at spreading the word, but the advent of social and mobile technology has changed all of that. Now nonprofits have the opportunity to easily (and economically) reach new supporters in all sorts of interesting ways. One of the key support-base-builders is mobile technology.

A lot has been written about the benefits and difficulties of mobile technology. NTEN devoted an entire issue of its quarterly digital journal, “It’s a Mobile World,” to the topic of mobile technology. However, much of the conversation is rooted in either high-level strategy or in the technical details of the technology itself.

Although both topics are significant, one area where more needs to be addressed is how mobile technology can actually help a nonprofit increase its impact, specifically through supporter development. There are three tangible ways that mobile technology (i.e., native, web or hybrid apps) can improve nonprofits’ reach and build relationships with supporters.


Let other people’s thumbs spread your mission: Word-of-mouth doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did a few decades (or even years) ago. Thanks to social media and photo sharing tools like Twitter and Instagram, it has evolved into something more akin to “spreading the message through thumbs.” Mobile technology, and more specifically social media integration, enables supporters to amplify a message instantly and effectively. After all, it is far more powerful to have others tell your story for you. A good example of this is pre-populated social media. Pre-population is a way for a nonprofit staff member or volunteer to build a singular Tweet, hashtag or Facebook message and leverage supporters to amplify it over their personal or professional networks.

Music Saves Lives (a blood donation nonprofit based in Los Angeles) uses its “Show Love” feature in its mobile app to connect with Warped Tour attendees. This has reduced marketing time input and has enabled an increase in its mobile supporter base to more than 3,000 subscribers.

Engage new demographics: Mobile technology has been and will continue to be embraced by diverse populations. For instance, the Hispanic population in the U.S. has a 60% smartphone penetration, with an incredible 80% ownership rate among 18 to 34 year-olds (Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project). On top of that, the Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment in the U.S. It is projected that one out of three Americans will be Hispanic by 2050 and they are above average users of social media – i.e., 17% of Twitter users are Hispanic (DK Web Consulting).

One great example of the effectiveness of putting mobile into action was demonstrated by the National Council of La Raza (a nonprofit created to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans), which created a mobile app for its 2012 conference so supporters could use it to navigate events and tweet about interesting topics. It was a big enough hit that they brought it back for the 2013 conference. Check out the app here.

Rule with direct data: Mobile technology is an easy-to-use way to collect and analyze information on supporters’ interests. Different from other forms of data, information that comes through a phone is pretty direct. For instance, if a supporter has downloaded a nonprofit’s mobile app, the organization can track who that person is, what they enjoy, who their friends are, along with their location, pictures, tweets, donations, and click-throughs among other valuable details.

This is powerful because it can identify supporter trends. For instance, it can help answer questions like: Are most mobile supporters concentrated in one region? Do app users prefer Twitter over Facebook? Are supporters more engaged online or on their phones? Better understanding of what is or isn’t working can enable better decision-making related to supporter identification and engagement.

Cultivating new users is a primary concern for any nonprofit organization interested in maintaining or increasing its impact. Being smart with mobile technology can increase your nonprofit’s ability to spread your word, engage new supporters and make data-driven decisions. The key is to understand the importance of mobile in your media strategy and to identify what drives new supporter growth.


Jared Sheehan
Chief Strategist
Pwrd By
Intrigued by how business solutions can impact the socially- and environmentally-responsible issues in the world, Jared Sheehan joined Pwrd By (Formerly Picture Healing) in 2011. He is now the Chief Strategist and sits on the Advisory Board, where he helps identify and develop future state vision and business plans for the company. Jared spends his days at Deloitte Consulting in the Sustainability practice. He has worked with a variety of nonprofits including the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center and Habitat for Humanity. He is also a contributing writer to numerous sustainability papers including Resilience and Growth Through Supply Chain Collaboration and Labor Unrest in the Global Supply Chain: Major Risk or Untapped Opportunity?.