Icons for various charity iphone apps
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Posted by Linda

The team at Want2Donate were curious about how many UK charities have developed apps for smartphones. So we started to download a load of them and thought we’d do some write-ups along with some screenshots which you can see in the gallery below.

Charities and apps

As apps became the next big thing with the uptake of Apple and Android smartphones, many charities flocked to the space and built an app just to see what happened. From what we had seen even before we did this deeper investigation, some appeared to be better thought-through than others.

When it comes to quality, any digital build’s final product can in many cases come down to budgets. Most people expect things to be fairly slick inside an app in terms of look / feel and functionality. But tight budgets shouldn't mean that great content can't shine through when it’s executed with intelligence.

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Depending on the type of idea a charity might have in mind for building an app, they might also consider the benefit of building some thing 'app-like' that uses HTML5 and works in smartphone browsers instead of a fully blown, downloadable app.

This might be better, in the right kind of cases, as a charity could offer an ‘app-like’ look and feel and functionality without the extra barrier of your potential supporter having to download and install something. Rather, it would be accessible directly from your smartphone’s browser. 

This would have further benefits in that you could target Android, Apple and the other OS’s without building numerous separate apps.

So what did we discover first?

To begin with our search term in the App Store was just ‘charity’. This threw up a bunch of results, some of which were clearly not charities themselves.

After filtering through the ones that were not actually UK charities, or even charities, we found the following apps by charities (which we’ll cover in this series of blog posts), that most people will have some kind of awareness of.

Please note this is not an exhaustive list. In each case we engaged with app as long as it compelled us to. Some offer more of a comeback factor than others and we’ll explain why.

From what we’ve learned another tip to charities would be to generally find a reason to keep the engagement going over time. This is probably a better strategy than building an app that does something once and never evolve over time.

UNHCR - Refugee

Asks for donations? Yes
Links to website donate form? Yes
Responsive giving forms? No
Text to donate? No
Has other monetisation? No
Has native iPad version? Yes

Has native iPad version? No

We found this app really engaging and a good awareness raiser to the plight of refugees. It also combined photographic imagary with good illustrations. It’s well worth a look.

You choose from three characters - Merita, Paulo or Amika, who are presented with challenges as they find themselves persecuted in their home countries.

You are faced with lots of difficult decisions that relate to family ties, hopes and beliefs. It adds a level of urgency, as the decisions you have to make have a time limit, which is a nice touch of gamification.

Invariably there is not often a good outcome and our characters were assassinated or killed as their homes were torched. It’s pretty heavy going as the characters are just normal people - not militia, or political.

The illustrations and content were done well and the message hits home. It doesn’t have a great ‘come-back’ factor but we think it’s an amazing awareness raiser.

After this, lots of charities make what we consider to be a user experience mistake.

This is that when the charity asks for a donation from an app environment, they often take you off to their main site donation pages on a website, and out of the app environment. An 'in app' donation would arguably be a better user experience, 

If there’s no other choice, there is nothing wrong with linking to a website to donate from an app, but the problem is when the website donation page is not responsive. (Go here for part 1 and here for part 2 of our showcase of responsive charity websites)

Many people on mobile phones will abandon at this crucial point of support due to the fiddliness of filling out non responsive web forms. They look and feel horrible on smartphones.

It has an ok comeback factor, in that it does pull a news feed of latest stories from UNHCR HQ. Overall, we really rate this app, but do not thinking making a donation from the app will be a nice experience. 

Battersea Dogs and Cats Homes

Asks for donations? Yes
Links to website donate form? No
Responsive giving forms? N/A
Text donations? Yes
Has other monetisation? No
Has native iPad version? No

Has native iPad version? No

This well know animal welfare charity has a cute app that acts like a shop window into the current list of animals they have up to adoption.

They have photos of the animals and the background stories that led them to need to be taken in from their original owners.

We did thing the writeups of the different animal’s stories buzzed with personality and that the charity have done a good job with the copywriting that will be received well by the target audience.

The app also has a 'success stories section' that has some lovely tales of  cats and dogs whose rehoming as gone well.

There are useful tips on rehoming and what a person needs to do if they wish to give up care of their pet.

We liked the way you are only given a text to donate option as that is much easier for the user as well as a native way to use the smartphone.

This app’s comback factor is ok in that it pulls an up to date feed on news from the home. But they are very short updates, and not sure how big the engagement would be with the content. 

We couldn’t get the Twitter share to work, though, which we wondered meant others could also not, and the charity might have lost out on a lot of shares.

If you have already fostered an animal, then you might not have much of a reason to comeback and check new listed animals. We would say this app if more targeted at first time potentional animal fosterers. 

RSPCA - My Pet

Asks for donations? No
Links to website donate form? Yes
Responsive giving forms? No
Text to donate? No
Has other monetisation? No
Has native iPad version? No

This nicely designed app from the well-known RSPCA has lots of facts about popular animals that people choose as pets. 

We like the way the home screen of the app taps you into latest news from the charity. Again, a potential problem is, say, promoting a campaign action via the app news feed, but taking you to a non-mobile respsonsive website which might lose them out on supporters.

It takes you through all sorts of tips on how to look after various animals from feeding, to grooming and giving them the right environment and company.

The animals it gives info on are:

  • Cats
  • Chinchillas
  • Dogs
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Mice
  • Rabbits
  • Rats

The categories within each animal are:

  • Environment
  • Behaviour
  • Diet
  • Company
  • Health and welfare

The information provided within each category is then split under two tabs that are called ‘Facts’ and ‘Things to do’.

There’s a lot of content here, so top marks to the RSPCA for this. It’s really engaging and informative to people who own the animals listed.

In addition you can set up a profile of your own pet diary and add key dates that relate to things you need to do for them.

The other main and fun section is a scrapbook where you can upload pics of your pets and notes in some fun frames and ‘paper’ backgrounds for posterity.

One really useful and practical piece of functionality we especially liked was the built in 'vet search' functionality. The only problem with this, though as it’s quite hidden away in that we could only find it when we were creating a new entry in our pet diary.

The news feed they integrate pulls teaser text from Facebook. When you click to read more you get the full post and comments but other supporters. You are also encouraged to join their facebook page, which we thought was really clever.

We've already finished writing up parts 2 and will post that up in short time

Catch up on the other parts to this blog series:

Tax exempt status of registered charities and online security

All of the charities listed on this website are registered with the Charity Commission in the United Kingdom. Like any business, charities have to submit Tax Returns to HM Revenue and Customs, but all donations are declared and the charities do not have to pay tax on them. This means all your donation to charity will help to further their vision and goals.

Registered charity numbers

Each charity's registered number can be seen prominently displayed on the bottom of their respective pages on this site and underneath their logos.

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