Fundraising on the go? There's an app for that
When the MS Society of Canada (MS Society) decided they needed to develop a mobile application to support their coast to coast MS Walk and MS Bike events, they turned to Protegra Software Studios.
Their goals were to increase participation, increase engagement with existing participants, and ultimately increase funds raised.
Even though the project team was drawn from both organizations and spread between multiple locations Canada-wide, the MS Society and Protegra Software Studios came together to deliver the solution in record time.
The MS Walk app was the first to be developed as the walk events occur across the country between April and June every year, while the MS Bike events occur between July and September. Prior to Protegra Software Studios' participation in this project, the MS Society had worked with a marketing agency to develop a wish list of potential features and a visual mock-up of how the proposed MS Walk mobile application could look.
Teaming up with Protegra Software Studios, the MS Society saw the benefits of the customer engagement approach and took a step back to better understand their customers' needs.
Based on internal discussions, the following application features were proposed:
- Personal steps tracking and challenge - track steps and pledge personal donations based on accumulated steps walked
- Friends' Challenge - send walking challenges to friends that will turn into donations once completed
- Calendar and Content - MS Walk dates, campaign key messages
- Push notifications - reminders to participate in the MS walks, challenge request
- Sharing components - share statistics, goals and challenges completed, call-to-action to download the application
- Motivation / Thank You short video messages - from influences and MS patients
- Bluetooth capability - potentially to connect to a device like Fitbit
Generate a business model and validate with customers
The first step was for Protegra Software Studios to understand the MS Society organization as a whole. By constructing a one page business model - a Business Model Canvas - Protegra Software Studios was able to quickly appreciate how the MS Society provides value to their customers, which includes the people they serve, and the volunteers and fundraisers they rely on. Now the team had a new hypothesis to investigate: would adding a new key resource, a mobile app, help deliver more value to their customers?
Perform innovation games until you see a pattern emerge
Protegra Software Studios ran three sessions of their version of the Innovation Game "Sailboat"; each session included a sample of MS Society customers. Without specifically discussing the mobile app, Protegra Software Studios' goal was to understand what these customers wanted to achieve through the MS Society, the challenges they faced, and what would help them reach their goals. Through these sessions, the combined MS Society / Protegra Software Studios team developed empathy for these participants and had valuable discussions with them.
Develop a value proposition: test and validate with customers
From here, the team took the data gathered during the sessions, analyzed it and pulled out the themes to create a Job Story Map. This map outlines the different situations customers find themselves in, including their motivation, desired outcomes and challenges. Not every job story was something that a mobile app could address (for example, challenges around the route of the walk, which was already set), but all the information was valuable to the MS Society and could be used in other ways. By cross referencing these requirements to those originally proposed, a revised, customer validated feature set was drawn up.
Based on the findings, the team decided to focus the mobile app on fundraising features to help event participants / fundraisers and team captains achieve their goals and increase inter-team communications.
The team proposed mobile app features that would either help relieve some of the current pains or enhance what was already working well. Mock-ups of these features were sent to the session participants for feedback and validation. This was another opportunity to ensure that the team had heard and understood what the customers needed.
Track and test progress
Even with the features decided, Protegra Software Studios' iterative process had numerous check points with the MS Society. During the 7 weeks of development, Protegra Software Studios regularly communicated with the MS Society's creative and technical teams and developed 3 interim demos to the MS Society team.
If additional changes were to be added, they were considered through the lens of the client data to verify if the need existed.
Real time integration with the existing MS Walk online fundraising platform was pivotal to delivering a large number of the solution features.
Through the use of Agile development processes and tools the MS Society and Protegra Software Studios teams were able to move quickly to deliver demonstrable functionality for review, by project stakeholders, on a regular basis and overcome obstacles along the way with minimal impact to the project.
As a result of Protegra Software Studios' approach for engaging solutions, the MS Society did not proceed with three of the originally proposed features based on the customer insight findings.
Tracking based on steps, motivation videos, and connection to 3rd party devices were not solving a problem or providing a gain for the customers based on the insights gathered, and most likely would not have been used. Since time and effort was not spent on unwanted features, the Protegra Software Studios team was able to add new features that would impact customers.
The final feature set included:
- Progress indicator to fundraising goal for teams and individuals
- Progress notifications / reminders for teams and individuals
- Local event information and countdown
- Donation awareness information
- Multiple channels for sharing - predefined and customizable (Email, Facebook, Twitter)
- Donation requests via social media and email
- Recruiting other participants and challenge friends via social media and email
- Participant / team specific donation links embedded in all social media and email messaging
Results and impacts
The MS Walk app was the first nationwide mobile application to support fundraising and awareness efforts for the MS Society of Canada and for a health-related charity in Canada (at the time of its release in March 2015).
We were able to leverage the existing technology investment by integrating with and adding additional features on top of the MS Society's existing online fundraising platform to support both events.
The MS Society then engaged Protegra Software Studios to re-purpose the MS Walk app for the MS Bike event held across the country in various locations in the summer of 2015. There are plans to make revisions and update both apps for the 2016 events.
People loved the app
I loved being able to monitor my fundraising progress and send our emails through the MS Bike app. It was great that I could access the app easily from my phone wherever I was. This made my fundraising so much easier than in years past. My favourite memory from this past Bike season was logging into the app while on the beach and seeing that I had exceeded my goal of $5,000!
For the past five years I have been a top fundraiser at my local MS Walk and it takes a lot of time and energy. Using the app this year I was able to fundraise on the go making it much easier to reach and exceed my goal. It was really simple to use and I love showing my kids our fundraising progress on my phone!
The apps helped to increase fundraising!
The MS Society is still analyzing the results, but on all accounts, the apps helped with the ultimate goal of increasing fundraising for both events!
- 1,729 participants downloaded Protegra Software Studios' MS Walk app
- 1,204 of these participants fundraised (70%)
- Total confirmed online fundraising by those who downloaded app was ~ $827,000
- Average fundraising collected online per participant:
- ALL participants (downloaded app or not): $235
- Those who downloaded app: $687
- Fundraising increase from 2014 to 2015 per participant:
- ALL participants (downloaded app or not): $60
- Those who downloaded app: $140
"When we decided as a national organization that we needed to develop an app to support the marketing efforts of our coast to coast MS Walk events, we knew exactly where to turn.
Despite the complexity of working with our organizational leads in different parts of the country, Protegra Software Studios masterfully led us through the initial stages of reflection about our mission, service delivery, participant experience and desired outcomes.
Through truly novel "innovation games" the story board of the proposal was developed. Our app launched at the end of March 2015 and was met with a great response from our walk event participants nationwide.
And, our partnership has continued to grow with Protegra Software Studios from that experience so that we can offer our bike event participants a similar app to enhance their event experience through enriched communication and fundraising tools. We greatly value our relationship with Protegra Software Studios and look forward to exciting new developments yet to come."