What’s the real cost of building an app for your nonprofit?

11 Dec


Once again the self-proclaimed nonprofit “experts” have struck. My, my how they love to talk, talk, talk.

And unfortunately, there are too many “experts” that no next to nothing about technology but they will continue to talk as if they do. Please get second opinions!

This time the topic was the cost to build an app and it was shared in an online call I listened in on with an expert talking about mobile fundraising.

First, the expert said there’s text-to-give or building an app. That’s it from his point-of-view. He completely missed the 3rd option (one that RAZ Mobile favors) and that is having a mobile-optimized website alongside your PC website. I won’t go into the reasons we chose this path when we created RAZ Mobile-many are here in our blog.

Instead, I want to focus on what he said it would cost to build an app. His figure: $30,000.

I am here to tell you today that an app for $30,000 will be the following:

1. Feature poor.

2. Unable to let you update and freshen content.

3. The least amount you will spend on your app.

4. A potential train wreck for your brand.

Much like any web project, great features come at a price. What are those features? A great giving experience not based on a shopping cart. Recurring giving is another one you’ll want and won’t be covered in the price. PCI-compliant donor credential storage is another. Real-time reporting, back-end CRM integration and crowd-funding are others you’ll want but this price from the expert won’t even come close to covering these features. At RAZ Mobile we consider these features, which we offer, to be table stakes in having a great mobile experience for supporters and donors.

The more likely cost is closer to $100,000 and this is just what you’ll pay the developer for Rev 1. Add to this cost the time of your team and the cost climbs.

What makes the cost climb even higher from there? Two words: OS upgrades.

Google and Apple upgrade their operating systems (OS) all the time. When I was the GM of Sprint TV back in the early 2000s MobiTV was one of our partners and they spent massively on engineers and development not of new products but on upgrades.

Upgrades are where the developers really make their money. So, I can see why the expert fell for the “app for $30,000” ploy. The developer is counting on making a truckload more in upgrades.

You’ll want the ability to post fresh content to your app which requires a content management system or CMS. CMSs can be fancy or cheap. For your $30,000 app, you’ll get cheap if you get one at all.

Un-fresh content is a turn-off to supporters so an app with stale or no content at all is sort of, well, useless.

How could an app be a train wreck for your brand? Again two words: app reviews.

I have seen apps get absolutely torched in the marketplaces where they are offered for not working or for offering a bad experience. Along with bad reviews goes your brand. Yikes. People these days feel compelled to out-do each other when the pig-pile begins so I would never advocate this approach unless you are ready to watch your reviews 24X7X365.

Now look, an app may be for you. You may have the budget for the ongoing, never-going-to-stop upgrades and changes you will have to make-count on them happening.

But if I were in your shoes I would go with the mobile-optimized website. You can direct mobile visitors to your PC site to your mobile-optimized website instead of your PC site like the big boys do. Why do this? Improved Google search rank and you’ll want to make sure you please and engage with your mobile visitors.

With the mobile-optimized choice it is easy to have an ROI today that’s over 1000% on a regular basis. (We have customers see this level all the time.) You may never see a positive ROI spending on an app.

Leave the upgrades, best practices, development of new features, etc. to a platform (like ours) so you can stay focused on your mission. This is the promise of today’s technology and not some off-the-cuff remark from an “expert”.

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