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Why Do Nonprofits Build Custom Apps?

9.24.20 By: Rob Jordan

What Is an App?

The answer to this question seems obvious. It’s not 2007 anymore, and even if by some chance you’re still hanging on to your flip phone, you still know that an app is a piece of software you download to a smartphone. Right?

I’d say sure, but they’re also more than that. Apps aren’t just tiles on your phone’s home screen. There are also apps on your computer and apps that run in a browser. Apps don’t have to have a user interface, and some just process data in the cloud.

And if you’re a Salesforce administrator, you know that you can also bundle objects and views together to make a Salesforce app.

This is the expanded definition of app. There are a lot of functions for apps, and there are a lot of different ways to build them, too. So let’s talk about why someone would want to build one.

Why Nonprofits Build Custom Apps

If you’re reading this post, we’re guessing you’re probably familiar with using Salesforce for constituent relationship management (CRM). And that’s great! In fact, there’s a lot of tech out there for managing relationships, and projects, and marketing automation, and so on. 

But if you think about it, these platforms really support your organization’s internal processes and structure. Furthermore, the power of these platforms only go so far.

Nonprofit organizations often end up building custom software to either open up their internal processes with the public and connect with their communities or to extend the power of the tech and data they already have.

In fact, the reasons we see nonprofit organizations develop custom applications fall into three main categories. We call this matrix the Launch PAD, which stands for Portals, Apps, and Data management.

Nonprofits build custom applications to connect with their community (a Portal), offer public functionality (an App), or to extend the functionality of their tech stack in processing and storing data (Data management).

What does an app like this look like? Consider this example: Adim Adim, a Turkish organization that facilitates charitable giving through the sponsorship of runners in local races, built a web app to manage runners, donors, process donations, and provide information about the races. Their web app connects everything to Salesforce, and Salesforce connects to MailChimp, which means all their operations are digital and centrally controlled.

Why You Might Consider Building an App

So how do you know if building a custom application is something your organization might need?

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Are you looking to engage constituents, manage program membership, or disseminate information efficiently but securely?
  2. Do you want to offer a digital tool to help your constituents or need to open a part of your business process to the public securely?
  3. Do you have information stored in multiple databases and need a way to unite the data and functionality of multiple platforms?

If you answered yes to any of these three questions, it might be worth your time considering a custom application. And you may think the first step is to identify the tech you need to make this happen and find someone who can build it, but to this we ask you to take a step back. The first thing you need to do is lay out your vision for what you want your app to do and how it should function.

In fact, there’s a lot to think about before you even worry about the tech. It’s all in our guide “From Blueprint to Launch Pad: What Nonprofits Need to Know About Building Building Apps”.


Download the Guide

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