This is right in my wheelhouse as the founder of(we are nonprofit membership software). I’ll start by laying out some misconceptions about launching a technical product, then give you some advice to be successful in launching your charity app.
Misconceptions about launching Tech projects
- Engineers are interchangeable
For a lot of people outside of the tech world (and even many in it) engineers that build technology are seen as interchangeable. As if they are the auto mechanics of the internet who have a common training/ability. This is not true – especially early on. Instead think of engineers as a person with a craft. They’re experience, and perspectives will greatly influence what they write and create.
- Once it’s built, it’s done
The web and mobile landscape goes through a major shift and transformation about every 18-24 months. While your project won’t need to be completely rebuilt every 2 years, it will require attention to stay current, operational, secure, and usable. You need to plan for this before you start.
- Once it launches it’s just works
Early downtime can kill a product/app/service. You’re product by it’s description as a charity app will likely accept donations. Down time early on will alienate your users and nonprofits from continuing to use it.
- More Customers will sign up all the time
Customers are not the same as active users. There are a ton of vanity metrics in the tech world. From user counts, to page views, to app downloads. None of them matter if it isn’t the purpose of your app. Know what your purpose is up front and have a plan to measure it from day one. It could take the better part of a year to hone your app enough to get users to see, understand, and act on the purpose for which you built it.
Advice on Building a Successful Charity App
This is advice I give all the time to people looking to get into the startup, app building, and/or web world. I hope it helps you focus and launch a successful app (please let me know how it goes!).
- Find your First Customers
Building an app is not like making a milkshake, it will not bring the boys to the yard. There are so many apps, and app discovery remains a huge problem. Thankfully there is an easy way around this. You talk to as many potential customers as you can. In your case call nonprofits in your city and take the directors out for lunch/coffee/beer/breakfa
st/whatever to learn from them. Your goal here is to better understand their pains & problems that your app can fix. Once you feel like your idea has been refined you can start to ask for feedback on your idea. Ask how they might use it. Ask if they see it having a place in their nonprofit. If not – ask what it would take to be valuable enough to use. As you get to the point of having them excited about using it ask for a commitment to use it when it’s built. Get their email and keep them informed as things progress. Finally ask them if they know anyone else you could talk to about it.
Goal: Refine your idea and get enough early commitments that when you launch you could get enough revenue to cover at least your operating costs. You don’t want to loose money on servers/etc month after month. That will kill the app. If you can at least cover the your base costs you could walk away for a few months and the app will be humming along just fine.
- Find a Technical co-Founder
Your question states you’re not technical. There will be people who say it is fine to launch a technology company/product without a technical co-founder… they are wrong and not likely technical themselves (see myths above). You need a technical founder to share in this journey with you. They are critical to its success (if/when it breaks on a Friday afternoon who will fix it over the weekend? Not your outsources contractor).So how do you find someone? Start getting customers on board and then look for local meetup groups. Start sharing your idea with people and brag about the number of nonprofits that are excited to use it. Ensure people understand that you want to share ownership/founder status with the right person. Keep at this and go to different events and you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to find someone you get along with, who shares a passion for the project, and has great technical chops.
Goal: Get a technical co-founder on board to build or manage the project. This person must have a technical knowledge, be able to create value with next to nothing (possible build the charity app themselves).
- Launch to your Selected Customers
Now it’s time to gather stories, photos, videos, and more. If you want this to scale and have an impact for a lot of nonprofits you need to plan this out. The better job you can do to directly show people how your app fits into the life and operations of their nonprofit the easier it will be to grow. After you get one or two of these put together you are ready to promote your app.
Goal: Create visual and tangible ways to understand the value your charity app has for a nonprofit.
- Promote the App
Once you have some of that media online, and a website that has the basic info on it go to sites like , , and more to tell people about your app. Searching the web will give you plenty of tips for how to do this well. Once you get here you want to keep ensuring that you are listening for new stories to tell, and for ways your customers are trying to use the app that you don’t support. Ask why they are trying/want to do that. It might be a clarity issue, or you may need to adapt your app for how users are trying to use it.
Goal: To find a repeatable way to onboard new nonprofits, and make it easy for their members to get into your app.
There ya go, a 2 hour coffee with me boiled down to a 10 minute read. Again please let me know once your app launches, or if you have questions along the way I might be able to help provide some guidance with.