Tech & Social Change Baltimore: Mobile apps for Baltimore Heritage and Parks & People Foundation

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Is your organization thinking about creating a mobile application? Tech & Social Change Baltimore's December meetup shared two case studies on the development of mobile applications for nonprofits. A huge thanks to organizer Kate Bladow for blogging about the event.

Note: this has been cross-posted from Kate's original post on the meetup group.

Eli Pousson, Field Officer at Baltimore Heritage, and Guy Hager, Senior Director of Great Parks, Clean Streams and Green Communities at Parks & People Foundation, joined us to discuss their organizations' mobile applications and what they learned from creating and launching them.

Balimore heritage iphone appBaltimore Heritage

Baltimore Heritage's application is Explore Baltimore Heritage. This app allows users to look around and learn more about the featured historic buildings and neighborhoods from across the city. It is available for both Android and iOS and is built on the Mobile Historical platform for the Omeka CMS.

The development of the mobile application was included as part of a grant to educate people about the War of 1812 and pull people into Baltimore's many neighborhoods. After examining the many platform options, Baltimore Heritage settled on Mobile Historical and Omeka and finalized the agreement in late 2011. It launched in the spring of 2012. They had an initial spike in downloads but have found that now it is staying at a constant low level. The next step is to make the app and associated website more visible.

Baltimore Heritage underestimated the amount of time to create the content. They would advise other organizations that are developing mobile applications to think carefully about content development and incorporate extra time into their project plan.

Parks & People Foundation

Parks & People Foundation's application is the Gwynn Falls Trail Park App, which helps trail-goers navigate the 15-mile trail running through Baltimore. While Parks & People created signs with the history and maps of the trail, hikers and riders had problems finding their way along the trail. It was built for iOS and is available in the iTunes App Store for 99 cents.

International Mapping Associates approached Parks & People about creating the mobile application for them for free. The final product is valued at $10,000 to $12,000. Parks & People spent a lot of time collecting content for their app, too. They needed to identify accurate GPS coordinates for every location included.

Parks & People haven't seen significant purchases of the mobile application. They have a marketing plan, which they've been working through; however, they've found promoting the application to be difficult. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and creativity.

As a next step, they are considering doing a Baltimore Trails App.