As a nonprofit, you are tasked with making things work with limited resources. Making use of apps can help your nonprofit become more efficient, making your jobs easier. In this blog post, we’ll share nonprofit app ideas that will help drive donations, promote your mission and improve day-to-day operations. 

So why are nonprofits using apps?

Digital is important for nonprofits, especially during COVID-19. Nonprofits need to have a strong digital presence now more than ever. They also have to focus on providing more value and operating more efficiently. 

This is important, because they usually have to do more with less. They’re always challenged to make things work under different constraints, and staff often wear multiple hats. So the more efficient they can be, the easier their jobs will be.

You could build an app to automate processes and improve day to day tasks. It could also mean relaunching their website to provide more value and create better integrations with the apps they have. 

Should you use an existing app or build a custom app?

Today, an app is a software as a service (SaaS) app that can be accessed via your web browser or mobile app. Whether you should choose one or the other depends on many factors. Not all nonprofits are the same. Your digital strategy will mean different things for another nonprofit, depending on how digitized they already are and what they want to focus on. What’s the most important thing that’s going to move your mission forward, and then focus on getting that right, and then move on to the next. Does something already exists accomplish this? 

Let’s break down the advantages and disadvantages of choosing an existing app vs a custom app. Ultimately, it depends on your organization and how it leverages technology. 

Existing (SaaS) app

The disadvantages and advantages of using a SaaS app:


  • Ready — It already exists, so you can start using it now!
  • No upkeep — There is no upkeep needed on your part
  • Features — Typical lots of available features that evolve over time without additional costs
  • Costs — Typically cheaper upfront costs
  • Training and support — Training and support available for your team
  • Security — Data protection and security are handled by the software provider


  • Rigid — The app has a specific way to solve the problem, so it may not fit into your workflow
  • Ownership — You don’t own it, so if the service is discontinued, you’re left with nothing
  • Difficult to use — Some systems are complex, difficult to use, and have a high learning curve
  • Lacking features — Might not have all the features you want
  • Changes — You can’t make changes. When you’re using an app, it’s nice to add things
  • Ongoing costs — most existing apps bill monthly or yearly

Custom app

The disadvantages and advantages of creating a custom app for your nonprofit are:


  • Personal — Tailored to your specific needs. Custom apps are designed to meet your nonprofit’s specific needs, which allows greater productivity, scalability, long-term savings and quality of service. You don’t have to work around software limitations, which makes your organization more efficient and helps reduce headaches.
  • Control — You can create the features you need. You can make fixes and enhancements right away
  • User friendly — Can make it easy to use for your organization
  • Flexible — You can improve and update the app over time
  • Ownership — Although in some cases the initial cost of custom apps may be more than software as a service, it offers a longer value. You know that the app will still be around and continue to work without many updates, maintenance or subscription upgrades. 
  • Unique — you can add unique features and functionalities that give you a clear advantage over the competition.


  • Costs — Custom apps can be a bigger investment up front, but the payoff is usually worth it.
  • Time — It takes time to build a production ready app
  • Maintenance — Adding features and keeping the app up to date with newer software has its own costs

Factors To Consider When Choosing Between SaaS vs Custom Software

When choosing between these two options, keep in mind the following:

  • Does the SaaS app fit all or most of your needs?

  • How much customization is required?

  • Does the app give you access to all the reports you might need? Custom apps allow organizations to create better, more detailed reporting. 

  • What’s your budget? Custom software can cost more than SaaS software, but some organizations may even find they save money in the long run.

  • There is an inherit risk when adopting new technology. New technology can be particularly hard to adopt, especially if the app doesn’t fit perfectly into an organization. SaaS apps have the advantage that you can trial the app without much investment. Custom apps, however, are riskier because they haven’t been built yet. You can reduce this risk by getting feedback from users and testing your product with an app prototype.

  • How much training will you need? Staff can be tricky to train on new software, especially when it’s complicated. Having some training can be helpful to ensure that the business knows how to use the software. SaaS software usually comes with online training, so you can learn at your own pace. 

  • Are you stuck using an existing solution? Custom apps can also help if you’re already using an existing system. Maybe you have multiple solutions and data that need to be integrated. Maybe your system is too complicated or needs a better interface for users. If people aren’t comfortable with your system, you can help them get over that by giving them simpler, more focused ways to interact with the same data. 

Nonprofit app ideas that drive donations

Charities need donations to continue their initiatives. Apps can help your organization collect donations in various ways. We also know that givers live more on their phones than their desktops. Happy donors means more donations for your nonprofit. 

  • Peer to peer fundraising apps — Make it easy for fundraisers to create personalized peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to raise donations on your behalf.
  • Fundraising app — Collect payments on the go with a fundraising app
  • Donor portal app — An app for donors to view and manage their donations. Giving portal. An example is an environmental charity app that lets you give directly to impactful charitable organizations around the world 
  • Auctions apps — Virtual auctions can be effective at raising money and engaging donors

Nonprofit app ideas that increase brand promotion

Awareness is crucial for all nonprofit organizations. A fun, creative mobile app can make your organization more attractive to volunteers or donors. But what kind of apps can you create? 

  • The World Wildlife Fund is the leading conservation organization. They released a sticker app that allows you to send cute origami images of each animal as part of a text message 
  • An interactive map that allows you to drop pins in all the spots where animals can be spotted. It’s a tool to get families involved in conservation efforts, and raise awareness of its efforts.
  • Canadian Red Cross trains volunteers in emergency response, disaster response, and disaster help. It also provides injury prevention services. As part of this initiative, they released a first aid app that helps people know how to handle the most common first aid emergencies.

Nonprofit app ideas that improve day to day operations

There are lots of apps for businesses and nonprofits to help them run more efficiently. These apps can help streamline time-consuming workflows.

  • CRM — engage and build meaningful relationships with your donors

  • Project management app — manage projects and resources

  • Fundraising app — raise more money for your cause

  • Time Scheduling — track hours and schedule staff and volunteers

  • Accounting software - bookkeeping and reporting

  • Event / Tickets management — organize events and sell tickets

  • Membership software — manage memberships

Nonprofit apps ideas that help your audience

Many organizations serve people who are going through a journey of some kind. An app can send you helpful info, resources, and tips. This gives you another way to serve your audience, including people who live farther away. 

  • A mobile app for cancer patients to help them organize health information and access vital health services.
  • A mobile app that provides information for immigrants, connecting them with settlement services and resources.
  • A learning management system for migrant workers to access short courses and improve their personal and professional development
  • A safety equipment app to help farm workers conduct effective safety inspections

Nonprofit app ideas that build community

An app gives us the chance to create a digital community. This is perfect for organizations that serve people who are healing and would benefit from a support group. 


Hopefully, that gives you a good idea of the types of apps your nonprofit can use to drive donations, promote your mission and improve day-to-day operations. How will you use apps in your organization? If you have any ideas, even if you’re just starting to think about something, let me know! We can help you develop that idea further and pitch it to your board.