Mobile apps have the ability to revitalise the third sector

MintTwist is a digital agency offering a full service of digital products and services for third sector companies including mobile app development.

The charity sector is failing to utilise digital tools and strategies. Lloyds Bank 2015 Research revealed that charities have the lowest industry sector score for digital maturity. While Charitycomm interviewed 50 senior figures both inside and outside the sector to reveal that 80 percent of interviewees were concerned about the lack of clarity in leadership around digital issues.

Another issue at the root of the industries stagnancy is the growing gap between charities current digital skills and the ones necessary for growth.

Take for instance Kony 2012, a viral social media campaign that took the world by storm, amassing over 100 million views in 6 days. It is the fastest growing viral video of all time but with that speed comes risk, like the media backlash, the public breakdown of founder Jason Russel and what appeared to be little practical effects.

The use of technology to deliver social value is still in its infancy. Charitycomm makes two key insights for digital transformations:

You need a digital mindset
  • Getting organisations to look with fresh eyes at how they can use technology to transform is essential. We need central organisational strategies that weave technology throughout everything – for every department, and for all audience groups.
We need to think beyond web to a broad range of digital technologies to achieve maximum impact
  • There is huge potential in web-based services for non-profits too but an even bigger opportunity exists if we can bring together the best of the web’s capabilities with other technology services from sensors and trackers to wearables and AI.

I have chosen three approaches which, in keeping with Charitycomm’s recommendations, using available technology and implement all-encompassing digital strategies:

Give a little, change a lot


One Today from Google, Instead and I Can Go Withoutt are three examples of micro-donations apps, only requiring a £1 – £5 donation. These apps seamlessly connect conscious consumers with trusted charities in the same way that Uber Eats connects restaurants with hungry customers.

This approach also presents a great opportunity to create simple marketing messages. The emphasis is put on making small sacrifices that result in meaningful outcomes.

Instead asks consumers to give up their daily coffee twice a week while I Can Go Without asks consumers to bring their lunch to work, both are simple pledges for positive outcomes. Creditability is built up through pairing users with trusted charities such as Thirst Relief International, UNICEF and the World Food Program.

One company which has managed to tie together measurability and the micro-donation strategy is Tinbox.

One of the co-founders, Adrien Guliminea, was inspired by the ALS challenge that raised over $100 million during its social media wildfire, while David Linderman saw potential after raising awareness for Sparks Children’s Charity by climbing Mount Everest.

This spurred the creation of Tinbox, which has reimagined the philanthropy, CSR and donations sector. App users donate $1 to charity every day, but the dollar comes out of the pocket of a corporate sponsor who appears on your screen for a maximum of five seconds. The dollar is then paid to a designated charity or initiative. This allows users to engage in a meaningful way and encourages corporations to extend their brand image through a positive cause.


The company is currently teamed with Charles Schwab, a financial service company in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has pledged $50,000 in $1 donations to facilitate a project called Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco, which aims to inspire youths who have come from less fortunate backgrounds.

The micro-donation, maximum impact has reinvigorated ageing charities by applying principles of world-class UI and UX. The pragmatic marketing messages also ring true for a younger generation who need a little nudge – or a low figure – to donate.

Tinbox has turned heads with many people wondering how the hell a couple of kids merged organisational and digital strategies to benefit corporations, social good causes, app users, and themselves. It extends well passed the recommendations made by Charitiycomm, with digital threads running neatly through all aspects of the young company’s business model.

Digital vigilantes


There is a multitude of crime prevention apps with built in recording, alarm, GPS and alert features. These seek to capture and deter crime before they happen, with many apps having an “alert my friends” feature to let your friends know your whereabouts.

Another style of app that is redrawing the lines of what it means to be an activist are anti-bribe apps, with great success in third world countries. I Paid a Bribe has gained a lot of traction in this sector, it seeks to uncover the market price of corruption.

I Paid a Bribe goes about this getting users to report on petty corruption only. The focus “daily lives bribes”, meaning services that they are legitimately entitled to from government officials e.g. getting a driver’s license, birth certificate, registering the purchase of property and so on.

Users of the service have the option name the officers and outline the circumstances of the offence. Apps are geo-tagged so the company has started to visualise the hotspots and is starting to leverage its data troves with local governments.

Apps like I paid a bribe and crime prevention apps make use of the digital fish bowl we now live in. It is important for charities to consider what Uber, Tinder and Spotify revolutionised their respective fields – are digital vigilante apps the sproutings of social aid and governance?

It’s hard to say, but based on some major social media flops the concept of digital governance must be taken with a grain of salt. It’s a game of snakes and ladders when you have an engaging campaign but lack clear procedures and policies around subjects like risk management, social media and crisis response.

Proactive apps


Proactive apps are those which trigger or necessitate real world actions. They have been a massive success over the past two years, with most campaigns being extended through social media. Budge app allows you to challenge your friends to anything. Users are encouraged to put a wager on friendly challenges with all proceeds going to a charity of your choice. Watch this space as more third sector companies employ the principles of gamification.

Charity Miles is an American app which uses your geolocation services to donates 25 cents for every mile you walk or run. The runner simply picks a charity of their choice, starts the app, and begins running.

GoodSAM(smartphone activated medics) was launched in the UK in 2013. It alerts medically trained responders to nearby emergencies so they may make lifesaving interventions before emergency services arrive.

Anyone can download the alerter app which notifies the nearest responders and calls emergency services. There is also recording options so that that medical staff and responders can assess the situation before they arrive. The organisation also works in unison with police and fire services.

GoodSAM co-founder Mark Wilson says: “Using the same analogy that you are never more than five metres from a spider, we figured in cities you’re probably never more than 200m from a doctor, nurse, paramedic or someone able to hold an airway and (if appropriate) perform high-quality CPR.  The problem was alerting people to nearby emergencies.”

Proactive apps, which also include fitness apps and game like Pokemon Go, are becoming massively successful. GoodSAM goes a step further, crossing physical and digital worlds in a meaningful way. The app, which puts empowerment at the heart of its mission, will be launching in Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Spain and Finland.



A common thread is shared among these apps: staying ahead of the curve. Budge is leveraging gamification, Tinbox and I Can Go Without are operating with seamless UX and UI elements, while GoodSAM and I Paid a Bribe are harnessing geolocation services.

Some other lessons: staff must have an appetite for change; technophobes should be hung out to dry; organisational and digital strategies must be intertwined.

To take a note from Stephen Sutton’s book – the young Brit who raised £4.5 million for hospitals and cancer research – “I don’t see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore. I’d rather measure life in terms of a difference”.

MintTwist is on a mission to planning, creating and updating apps which use change as a key metric. We forge digital pathways without losing focus on your unique passion points. Let us unfurl your ideas today.

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