Business Strategy

Nonprofit app ideas that win grants

Nonprofit organizations frequently rely on corporate or government grants to fund new initiatives and move their causes forward. Big corporations like AT&T and Verizon are particularly incentivized to fund community projects that rely on the companies’ technologies, such as mobile apps. Navigating the waters of pitching an app that’s appealing and has noticeable impact can be difficult, though.

Grant review boards have to read countless applications that all begin to blur together. It becomes hard to see why one project is better than another. Simply mentioning that the grant would help fund a loosely described or entirely non-described mobile app tells the review board that the app is an afterthought. With an industry standard starting price of $20,000 per platform, a mobile app should never be just an add-on in an grant application.

So how do you pitch a mobile app that stands out and actually makes a difference to your nonprofit organization? A mobile app should deliver a very specific benefit to your organization or donors, and it shouldn’t just be a new coat of paint over what’s on your website. There are four major aspects of apps that serve nonprofits incredibly well and will help you write the perfect grant application.


A mobile app presents the opportunity to create a digital community in places where a physical community is harder to cultivate. This is perfect for organizations that serve people who are healing or recovering from abuse, addiction, illness, or other potentially isolating things. Especially in situations where users may be hesitant to publicly align with the cause, a mobile app where users can find community while retaining their privacy is perfect. Your organization can offer a structured environment that is strictly moderated, or you can provide freedom for interaction.


Many organizations serve audiences that are going through a long journey of some kind: cancer patients going through treatment, students applying for college, or entrepreneurs looking to launch their first business. A mobile app can deliver the same type of counsel through that the organization typically shares through events, printed documents, or video. This provides an additional avenue which to serve an audience, including those that may be geographically remote from the community the organization traditionally serves. An interactive tool for navigating a multi-step journey is a good opportunity to expand the reach of an organization like this.


Awareness is essential for all nonprofits, and a fun, creative mobile app can make your organization more prominent among an audience that is likely to volunteer or donate. Medical organizations could offer an app that encourages healthy lifestyles. Education organizations could release an app with lessons or activities for their primary issue. Environmental organizations can focus on the GPS functionality of a mobile device and offer apps that encourage getting outside. As a whole, apps that focus strictly on promotion or brand recognition of a nonprofit should be fun and worth talking about in casual conversation.


Organizations that receive donations as a percentage of a purchase somewhere have good reason to invest in an application that streamlines the redemption of that receipt or transaction. Whether the app is for donors themselves or partner organizations, a seamless, automated workflow is incentive to continue giving. This can be a big project, especially if your network is already integrated with other software. For the organizations it makes sense for, though, it’s a great move.

Budgeting for your app

Including an app in a grant proposal always means you have to ballpark the price of developing that app, which can be a challenge in itself. Like mentioned above, industry standard pricing begins at about $20,000 per platform (such as iOS or Android). Budgeting high always gives you the opportunity to expand functions, but budgeting too low means you may have to cut features.

If your nonprofit organization is working on a grant application for an app and needs help describing what the app will do for you and your audience, let’s chat. We can help you figure out what app features are best suited for your organization.

Considering software for internal use with your nonprofit organization? Download our free white paper to find the best apps for the needs of your organization.

By Emily Hart