App technology for NGOs

So you think you need an app?

The world has gone crazy for apps. Apps in the NGO space such as those by the Red Cross and the WWF have been downloaded by millions of people. There’s a lot of pressure for non-profit organisations to get on board the technology train, and so often that comes down to the cheerful exclamation, “Let’s create our own app!” Everything sounds great at first; the CEO is starry-eyed, your marketing guy espouses the virtues of leveraging a hot new technology, everyone is super excited at the prospect of finally being able to say, “Guess what… we have an app for that!”

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Creating a kick-ass app is tough!
The process is typically costly, complex and collaborative by nature, often taking far longer than originally predicted. You are the expert on what your NGO does, on your customers, and on your business aims, but the app development team are the experts on things like design, usability, and of course the nuances of code. This makes building an app a very collaborative undertaking. Naturally, this means a lengthy venture, with much to-ing and fro-ing between stakeholders, your own organisation and your app development team. Creative vision can also be a stumbling block… it can actually be really tough to identify a clear niche for your app – a legitimate problem that needs solving or purpose for being which would make a good and useful app. Then there’s the fact that publishing your app is just the beginning because even the best products are useless without a solid marketing campaign… not to mention the ongoing support and maintenance an app needs.

In a nutshell, creating your own app is a notoriously difficult and time-consuming project, often high cost, high stress, and with a low return on investment.

What makes a good app for an NGO?

Good apps solve problems. Legitimate problems. Problems that existed and when you went through the ways it could be solved the answer was ‘an app’. But if your organisation’s reason for wanting an app is “everyone else has one” or your team is saying things like “I think we need an app so we can show we are technology-savvy”… that is a definite bad sign that you’re on the express train to an app-tastic failure!

The challenge remains – how can your organisation get on the app bandwagon, show itself to be modern, and make the most of the truly amazing technological landscape?

Try this on for size:

You don’t have to be the app creator to utilise an app as a core part of your NGO’s operations.

Consider three of the best apps for NGOs highlighted below as examples:


There’s a good chance your NGO holds events. If so, check out Eventbrite Organiser. The app allows you to create and edit events, monitor real-time ticket sales, check-in attendees, and track attendance live.


Trello is a collaboration app that enables you to organise and prioritise your projects or tasks in a fun, flexible and rewarding way. It’s beautifully simple on the surface. A Trello board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by you and your team. It’s a lot more than that, though. Trello has everything you need to organise projects of any size and can be a fantastic tool for NGOs.

PayNow for Stripe

Every NGO needs a way to accept donations! PayNow for Stripe is a minimalist point of sales app, allowing you to accept credit and debit card payments quickly and easily on a mobile phone or tablet. The app is available on both Android and iOS. You can have it set up on multiple devices so your NGO staff can be roaming at the event, taking donations on the spot.


There are some truly excellent apps out there for NGOs. Tools that solve legitimate problems. Sure, creating your own app is worth considering if you have an original idea for what is will do, and if your organisation has the time and money for the undertaking. But we feel an NGO can often best address its technology aims by using one of the many existing apps to solve a common problem. The three apps featured above are a fantastic starting point to help your NGO embrace new technology, and leverage this hot, fun and trendy app technology. Trust us… even your marketing team will be ‘appy! 😉

Maeve Lander is an experienced software engineer from Western Australia, and founder of PayNow. Outside of work, she loves rock climbing, and is a keen musician (jazz trumpet).