Items filtered by date: March 2016

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 17:06

How Mobile Apps Are Helping Churches Grow

Technology in church is nothing new. It was there when the overhead projector gave everyone the hymn words, and is now there in smart tech and sound equipment. It makes sense that mobile apps, the technology of today, are brought on board by churches too. Given that weekend worship attendance is dropping year on year, something definitely has to change if churches are to survive the seismic change of culture since the dawn of the mobile age.

Churches and Mobile Apps – The Problems

  • Fear of Change: Churches tend to be reactors, rather than proactive leaders. Much of this fear stems from a concern that tech will come at the expense of real relationships, a key purpose of the church.
  • Engaging Millennials and Younger Audiences: The millennial generation have shorter attention spans and a more cynical approach to life due to the proliferation of information at their fingertips than the generations before. Churches need to be capable of addressing this if they want to thrive.
  • Communication: Congregations need communicating with and in the current landscape they are used to having instant communications to their palm, not just a Sunday morning pew sheet.
  • Lack of Time: The leaders of churches typically lack time with great demands for their limited schedule. They need to be able to disseminate information about events and news all in one place.
  • Church Resources: Need to be accessible in ways that truly reach where they are needed.
  • Building Community: Building the community beyond the four walls of the church is as much a part of its mission now as it always has been. Reaching the community can be even harder now fewer Americans go to regular services.
  • Budget Constraints: Churches are often facing budget constraints, and need to demonstrate accountability for their spending.
  • Exclusivity is Up: No longer can you stand out from the church-crowd for having the best sermons or the most insightful worship music. Everyone now has access to sermons online 24/7 from around the globe.

Overcoming the Problems – Mobile App Solutions

  • Mobile App Functionality for Churches: The beauty of church apps today is that they can be designed to serve the exact functions churches require. Therefore, church apps can contain features such as Prayer Request forms, Bible Study content, downloadable worship music, small group material, or more. Church apps can be used to build community, serve, extend a church’s mission, train leaders, care for the needy and more.
  • Mobile Promote Real Relationships: Combating probably one of many people’s primary concerns is the reality that far from distancing people, technology can have a powerful effect on bringing people together that wouldn’t otherwise come together. Church apps enable community and real-life relationships without ‘demanding proximity’. You can get to know and meet people within a church app in a way that facilitates true relationship offline.
  • Church Apps Remove Compartmentalization: It’s easy to be a ‘Sunday Christian’ when all that’s required of you is a few hours of your time once a week. For Christianity to be relevant to people’s lives outside of a weekly service, the church needs to meet people where they spend most of their week: with a smartphone in their hand.
  • Boost Biblical Literacy: Given 82 percent of Americans think “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. 12 percent think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. 50 percent of graduating high school students think Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife” there is a huge amount of improvement to be made (Source). Church apps bring the Bible, and study of it, to a convenient and accessible location. 74% of church members read the Bible electronically, so it makes sense to be a vessel for that.
  • Church Apps Empower Change: Change isn’t always a bad thing! Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!” Change within the church must keep pace with the change happening outside their walls, and church apps are the current reality.
  • Make Yourselves Accountable: Credibility comes from accountability: if you can show truth in your service then you gain credibility. The millennial generation don’t just ‘take your word for it’, instead you’re likely going to find them Googling the facts spoken in a sermon (Source). If those sermons were available via chuch app, complete with references, credibility is gained.
  • Take the Church to the Community: Taking the church to the community and the non-churchgoers of today means getting in to people’s palms. Mobile apps, along with church websites, are likely to be the very first point of contact for potential new churchgoers. It’s a powerful way to connect with the unchurched.
  • Communication and Fundraising Made Easy: Church apps make communication with your congregation so much easier than traditional methods including event booking and notifications, as well as enabling fundraising. Donations can be made via church app and don’t need to wait until the collection bowl does its rounds.

Education and Mobile Apps: The Success Stories

When you consider the plight of our people, it is one of turmoil. You may ask church leaders today why God allowed us to suffer so much, and ask for scriptural proof. Church leaders have filled our minds with every love verse- that reality, even the truth is lost. The truth is we’ve been cursed as a people not blessed, things have happened to us and not to no other people- as a race. Why Our history is the greatest holocaust.

The Saint Andrew Catholic mobile app is packed with features to help you pray, learn, and interact with the Catholic community.

This app was created to be a resource to aid in our mission to minister to the needs of the whole man in order to secure abundant living for families in the world. We are a family in Christ, and we must seek to build God’s Kingdom through evangelistic empowerment, educational empowerment, and economic empowerment. We have bundled in this app all things including: Live streaming, church announcements, social media connections, pastor’s sermons, online donations and much more!

The Mobile Industry Benefiting Churches

The modern church needs to keep pace with change, and that means being part of the ‘smart’ generation and getting into people’s palms instantly and when they are needed, not in a few hours on a Sunday. Mobile apps make it possible to draw together the community and congregation and provide a service and deliver a mission that extends far beyond the four church walls. Mobile app functionality can be tailored to the specific needs of each individual church allowing for differences along the way. With the right development, church mobile apps can become a powerful tool for the modern church.

Reaching your Sunday congregation on the other 6 days of the week can be tough. Members who aren’t involved in church activities outside the regular service—especially newcomers—tend to feel slightly isolated from the community. As welcoming as your church may be, it’s important to extend invitations for the fresher faces to participate through many channels. More committed members, too, may drift from season to season, so finding proactive methods to strengthen and unite your community is essential for the long-term health of your whole congregation.

Beyond an active social media presence, what can you do? Mail gets tossed and flyers left behind, but a mobile app keeps your churchgoers tuned in even when they’re not in the pews. Below are 5 main ways a mobile app can help you build a better community.

Highlight Events

The simple-to-use Events feature is a wonderful way to pack your calendar. Members can view event details in just a couple clicks and RSVP right through the app. You can update event information at any time and notify users of upcoming fundraisers, bible studies, potlucks, and more.

Accept Donations

Up the ease of giving by accepting donations through a Merchandise feature or linking to your website’s donation page. It’s great way to reduce paper waste and give your congregation a quick way to chip in, no checkbook required. You can also sell tickets to next month’s fundraiser or your very own churchandise (that’s church merch).

Post Sermons

Keep your daily messages on your members’ minds. Recorded sermons are easy to share and promote. Upload an mp3, sync up your church’s podcast, or link to your YouTube channel to host recordings through your app. Users can tune into the sermons they missed or re-listen to their favorites right within the app.

Send Updates

You’re just a few clicks from reaching users anywhere, anytime with unlimited push notifications. They’re more cost-effective, less time-consuming, and easier to create than text message marketing or email newsletters. Link to your hosted sermons, remind people about tonight’s event, and get creative with custom messaging options. Users can click through to view the essential content after you grab their attention with a pop-up notification. It’s a great way to keep your congregation in the know.

Gain Subscribers

Rather than circulating a sign-up form after services, invite users to join your mailing list when they launch your app. You can start a new email list through the app or integrate with a 3rd party newsletter service. Either way, you’ll be boosting your subscribers with each new download and eliminating the paperwork.


Wednesday, 16 March 2016 17:06

7 Non-Profits Leveraging Mobile Apps

In 2010, Apple enraged nonprofits and charities (which isn’t easy to do considering the philanthropic, humanitarian nature of these organizations) when they put a ban on making donations through iPhone apps.

The ban means that an iPhone user looking to donate through their favorite nonprofit’s mobile app has to be redirected to the organization’s website. This means the user has to make several clicks and traverse different pages and forms just to make one donation. The dream of a one-click donation button was struck down.

The move was met with a lot of backlash, as it seemed Apple was intentionally making it harder for people to donate to their favorite charities via their mobile devices. With no real explanation given and Apple’s PR reps declining to answer any questions on the topic, a lot of nonprofit leaders began to go viral with illustrations and Internet memes depicting Apple’s then CEO, the late Steve Jobs, as Dr. Seuss’ Grinch.

Management or Money?

There are two leading issues with regards to handling mobile donations that breathe some insight into the rationale behind Apple’s ban. First, donations would likely go through the App Store’s payment processing system, which means Apple would assume the responsibilities of ensuring the funds were distributed and allocated properly.  It puts the onus on Apple for verifying the authenticity of charities. Simply put, it presents a lot of new challenges that Apple would have to manage and expend resources on.

The other possible reason for Apple’s decision to eliminate donation-based apps is a little more Grinch-esque: the money. Apple’s current policy on App Store purchases is that they take a 30% cut. So, everytime you make a purchase on your favorite mobile game, Apple gets a sizeable share. They would have to adjust this policy or create exceptions for charities and nonprofits because no one would appreciate 30% of their donation going to Apple’s coffers.

Far from the End of Nonprofits and Mobile

Despite Apple’s restrictions on donations, non-profit organizations are still utilizing mobile apps effectively, especially to drive engagement and donations from the 80 million millennials who are tied to their phones and looking to support a good cause.

Aside from fundraising, many nonprofit and charity groups have found the mobile environment to be incredibly helpful to attracting new supporters and creating a more unified, connected community of existing contributors.

From a fundraising aspect, many nonprofits have found success using mobile-oriented platforms, such as text-to-give campaigns, mobile donation portals and other strategies. These allow a nonprofit to target existing and potential supporters on their mobile device, without expending the resources necessary to actually develop a functioning mobile app. Other companies, like MyPocket Apps, offer enterprise publishing programs whereby iOS apps can bypass the App Store altogether, with apps living in what is essentially a private version of the App Store with fewer regulations. Other alternative means of fundraising include…

Text-to-Give Fundraising

Non-profit organizations are some of the best at reaching target audiences through text-based messages and campaigns. With 6 billion people estimated to own a cellphone (more people have access to a cellphone than a toilet with running water), almost anyone in the world has the ability to donate via text message.

Plus, text-based messages are almost always opened; about 98% of all messages are sent and users are three times more likely to respond or perform a desired action than with email-based messages. These campaigns have been especially successful during natural disasters because these events are so widely covered by global media that people from all over become engaged and want to donate to help however they can.

Friend-to-Friend Fundraising

One of the biggest advantages to mobile apps, with regards to fundraising, is that they are easy to integrate with social media sites enabling sharing with users on other mobile devices. Some nonprofit groups have used this social aspect of the mobile world to their advantage, by creating programs built around sharing.

These fundraising campaigns empowers existing supporters of the charity or cause to get their friends involved, whether that is through donating, participating in an awareness movement (think of the popular ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ for ALS), downloading an app, or attending an event.

But, What About a True Nonprofit Mobile App?

On the surface, all of the above strategies appear to be ways to get around needing a mobile app. However, each of these tactics can be used within or alongside a mobile app. Aside from donation collections, mobile has done quite a bit to further many causes.  Apps areresponsible for:

  • 272,000 meals donated to hungry people in the US
  • 74,000 trees saved
  • 27 million liters of clean drinking water

And the list goes on and on.

To understand how these types of fundraising work on a mobile app platform and get some creative ideas for your own organization’s future mobile app, here are some examples of innovative nonprofit mobile apps.

It is worth noting that not all of these organizations are large, well-known nonprofits. Instead, some represent small causes and charities, which goes to show you that successful mobile apps aren’t just available to large companies, but are within reach of smaller organizations.

1.) Salvation Army Canada & Bermuda

Around Christmas time, we are used to seeing the Salvation Army Santa Clauses outside major shopping centers and stores, ringing their bells next to the iconic red kettle. The Salvation Army chapters in Canada and Bermuda decided to take this experience mobile, with their app ‘iKettle.’

Users that downloaded the app were afforded the opportunity to design their own virtual version of the red kettle and then share it with their friends. Each user’s unique iKettle had its own button for visitors to click to donate. Even though the button sent them on the circuitous route of opening a web browser page, the app was a success and a continuing example of what friend-to-friend fundraising on a mobile app can look like.

2.) United Nations 

To help increase awareness and even action regarding important political, social, cultural or humanitarian issues, the United Nations Calendar of Observances has detailed information about events and observances. If you want to learn more or get involved, each observance has a number of links associated with it, so you can obtain more info or find a movement near you to take a more active role.

Thanks to the app’s social media integration, events are easily shareable on Facebook, Twitter, etc., which further helps spread awareness of the issues. It can also be integrated with the existing calendar application on your mobile device for ease-of-use.

The UN Calendar of Observances app doesn’t directly do any fundraising or have a donations button, but by promoting these events, they not only stimulate awareness, but also indirectly raise money for these various issues.

3.) American Red Cross

Most of us have attended a blood drive at one time, but did you know there’s an app for that? Not the blood-donating part, of course, but the Blood Donor app, by American Red Cross does just about everything else.

At its simplest function, the app lets you schedule, reschedule and receive reminders about appointments. Beyond scheduling, it allows a user to see how their individual donations have helped, in the form of how many lives they have saved.

The app will also use push notifications to alert donors if their blood type is needed in their area, which has been especially effective during crises or blood shortages. Socially, the app also hits high marks.

While the Red Cross could have stopped at simple social media integration, they took it a step further by creating a team feature, which allows a family, sports team, office, etc. to band together and see how much they can donate compared to other teams. High performing teams receive special incentives through participating businesses.

4.) Movember – Mo’s on the Go

If you have ever heard of, or participated in, ‘Movember,’ the time where men refuse to shave their upper-lip hair for a month, you may be interested to know that the November phenomenon gained traction all because of an app.

While the movement started thanks to the Australian charity Movember, which aims to bring awareness to male health issues like prostate and testicular cancer, it wasn’t until Mashable, the popular digital media website, covered Movember’s app, Mo’s on the Go, that the November holiday (if you will) became a global and viral sensation.

What allowed Movember to achieve this viral success was its playful attitude and brand image, which fit nicely with the millennial generation. It also leveraged the social side of friend-to-friend fundraising by pitting male friends against one another to see who could grow the most ridiculous mustache over the course of the month.

People can donate through a friend’s page, whom they feel has the best facial hair. Again, thanks to the Apple ban, this meant being taken outside the app, but regardless Mo’s on the Go was a huge success.

5.) Capital Area Food Bank of Texas

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) had a clear goal for their app; they wanted it to help them achieve their goal of reducing hunger by 25% in the next four years in their area. To accomplish this, they realized their app needed to be two things: engaging and informative.

The informative side of the app shares details about local fundraising events and updates about the current status of hunger in the area. For engagement, the CAFB got creative and created “Catch the Can,” a simple mobile game that lets a user stock their own virtual pantry with healthy, non-perishables.

In-game purchases, in the form of appliances for the virtual kitchen, support the CAFB and incentivize donations, while simultaneously getting around the Apple ban. The game is not only engaging, but it also helps teach about the cause and the ways people can make a difference.

6.) American Hiking Society

Going for hikes and taking picturesque photographs of nature pretty much go hand-in-hand. So, when it came time for the American Hiking Society to develop a mobile app, someone had the epiphany to combine the two.

Aside from providing maps and locations for parks, forests, campgrounds and more, HIKE allows users to track their own hike with the ‘adventure’ feature. During the hike, any photos the user takes are marked on their map with geo-tagging, which allows them to go back and “replay” the journey from beginning to end.

Adventures can be easily shared on social media platforms. While the HIKE app doesn’t openly generate funds or spread awareness, it imparts value to hikers because the American Hiking Society knows that they are the ones who will ultimately be responsible for maintaining trails and parks.

7.) VolunteerMatch

Fundraising and acquiring donations are constantly on the minds of most non-profit organizations. Yet, managing fundraising events and accomplishing the many tasks associated with running a non-profit takes a lot of manpower in the form of volunteers. The web-based company VolunteerMatch, and their mobile app, pairs app using volunteers with organizations in need of help.

With over 100,000 organizations available, the VolunteerMatch app allows you to pick your favorites. It saves your preferences to offer you future opportunities in your area that fit your general interests. Thus, VolunteerMatch is helpful for both non-profits themselves as well as users looking to find volunteer opportunities with their favorite non-profits.

Final Takeaways

There are a few common threads in these standout examples of nonprofit mobile apps. First, nothing spreads awareness quite like social media, so a non-profit app needs to be integrated with these networks and ideally have some sort of shareable content (that users want to share with their friends). Social media also encourages others to take part and helps stimulate friend-to-friend fundraising.

Second, the app should present some sort of value to the users, whether that is a mobile game or a feature like HIKE’s Adventures. Without this, your app won’t be engaging enough to be part of any user’s daily routine. Remember,80-90% of apps are downloaded once and never used again.

And finally, if your nonprofit is very fundraising driven, find a unique and creative way to encourage mobile donations in a way that is not too cumbersome to the user while circumventing the App Store. An engaging, functional mobile app is out there waiting and as we move towards a more mobile-focused world, these apps are becoming the best way to target audiences when we need them the most.

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