Is your organization wondering whether to "Build" or "Buy"?
Investing in a mobile application is an important decision for charitable organizations, and a timely one considering the market trends towards smartphones! Consumers are adopting iPhones, BlackBerries & Android devices at growing rates.
The building of a custom application can be an extensive undertaking that may not make economic sense for many nonprofits. Alternately, a "one size fits all" mobile app might not suit the unique needs of your organization.
Here are some questions to consider before investing in a mobile app:
Resources - Do you have the available internal personnel, skills and budget to manage the project?
Timeline - Do you need to launch quickly? Does your event or campaign run for a short period?
Customization - Does your campaign have unique needs that can only be addressed by a custom build?
Scalability - What are your plans to manage the mobile app in the long term? (For instance, Apple requires updates and resubmission at scheduled periods.)
User Device Profile - Will you concentrate on one smartphone market (for instance, the Android OS), or will you invest in creating multiple versions of your application?
The conversation about building mobile applications can often be described as "Build" vs. "Buy". "Build" means to create a custom application. "Buy" means to license an existing application to be branded for your organization.
Some examples from the charitable sector:
Build - Royal Children's Hospital Foundation in Brisbane built a custom mobile application for their Mount Everest Challenge fundraising event.
Buy - Artez Interactive created a white-label friendly iPhone app, used by The Winners Walk of Hope 2010 & The BMO Kids Help Phone Boolathon.
Build Pros & Cons: RCHF's campaign included innovative custom features like prize level notifications and a step counter (pedometer). As a mobile application specifically built for the Everest campaign, the developers were also able to link it into a companion custom app separately built for Facebook.
Charities building custom applications this way must maintain and manage their apps for future releases & updates. The build of a custom app can be lengthy and expensive, requiring design, development, & QA time before the product is even submitted to an app store.
Buy Pros & Cons: For a white-label application, the core functionality is already built. Development and maintenance time is not required, greatly reducing the cost of the application for charitable organizations.
An internal resource at the charity is not necessary as organizations only need to supply branded assets like text, images or colours. The app will include mobile fundraising features that are standard across charities, but does not allow organizations to add additional features. The production of a white-labeled app can be as quick as 8 weeks from contract to availability in the iTunes store.
Artez Interactive's Breanna Hughes, Director of Product Development, presented the "Build vs. Buy" case at the Canadian Marketing Association's Digital Day Conference in November 2010. View and download her presentation!