As mobile devices sweep the nation, non-profits are eager to invest in mobile friendly websites and apps that maximize their exposure to these new tech-friendly audiences.

According to the Charity Navigator, in 2011 a total of $298.42 billion was given to charities by Americans. Giving by individuals (not corporations) represented nearly 9 out of every 10 dollars donated in 2011.

Non-profit organizations continue to utilize traditional marketing methods to promote thier cause, but they are now embracing digital marketing and the opportunities to reach new donors on a global scale. 

This road has not been easy

In 2010 Apple banned the use of apps to make direct donations to charities. Apple’s decision angered non-profits who saw mobile applications as a vital tool to collect donations.  This ban slowed the growth and production of charitable apps and greatly affected the users experience.

Regardless of challenges, the non-profit industry continues to emerge from the dust and offers philanthropists many mobile giving options.

Piano* AppApps For Hunger, Inc., founded in 2011, has already donated $30K to Compassion International made possible, in part, by the funds raised by purchasers of their Piano* App.

50% of all proceeds are donated to Compassion International whose mission is to provide food, shelter, education, medical care and Christian training to children suffering from poverty all around the world.

Jonathan Giles, founder of Apps for Hunger, Inc. said:

I’m just thankful to be a part of something positive. People have reported having great success learning piano by knowing which finger to use based on the color of the notes. Also the app has a sheet music mode where users can learn to read music.

On Friday, July 13, 2012, Apps for Hunger, Inc. made their popular Piano* app free for download.  Some key highlights are:  

  • The app is designed to teach users how to play songs and exercise fingers in a way that prepares you to play a real piano by color-coding the finger with the keys.
  • Users have the choice to play the songs as the notes fall on the screen, or they can choose to use sheet music.
  • If a user has a piano, the app can serve as a learning device while playing the actual piano.
  • There are over 35 songs offered in the free version.

Though the app is now free, users may still support Compassion International by purchasing other Apps for Hunger, Inc. apps, sharing the app with friends, or sponsoring. 

Charity Miles

Also new to the scene is Charity Miles. This is a free iPhone/Android app that enables you to earn money for charity while walking, running, or biking.  As you walk, run or bike, the app will track your distance and you’ll raise awareness and earn money for your charity. 

  • Bikers earn 10¢ per mile;
  • Walkers and runners earn 25¢ per mile

Some say that this may revolutionize corporate charitable giving practices. However the app itself may need a little work before it appears on the mobile devices of millions. 

At the moment, the app only runs on iOS5. The additional steps necessary to upgrade to iOS5 may annoy users who carry an older version of the iPhone or have another mobile device. Also:

  • In order to log in to the app you must use Facebook. Users like to have options, and not everyone uses Facebook. 
  • There is a lot of competition. Physically fit users are already using apps that utilizing GPS technology to track activities – as described in one of my previous posts. It may be hard for some users to give up their tracking history. Currently, you can not import your workouts from other programs.

These two examples are just a few of many. There are hundreds of charity applications to help non-profits raise funds, share information, and to introduce donors to charities that interest them most. You can see AppAppeal’s list of the top 26 Free Charity Apps based on worldwide popularity at

Find out more about the latest trends, best practices and statistics related to the mobile user experience in Econsultancy’s Mobile User Experience Trends Briefing