5 Mobile Apps That Could Be a Community Organizer’s Best Friend

by Carol Buckheit on October 5, 2011

Can you believe that iPhone apps have only been around for a little over 3 years? Since Apple launched their App Store in July, 2008, over 15 billion apps have been downloaded onto mobile devices.

As someone who spent thousands of hours toiling away as a community organizer, grassroots fundraiser, and communications director, I have to wonder…how could I have shaved off some of those hours (not to mention gotten a few more zzzzs at night) with smartphone technology?

Here are 5 apps that have great utility for organizations who are in the field, mobilizing for a cause:

1. Postagram: Available for the iPhone and Android, Postagram allows you to instantly send a postcard through the mail, from your phone. The postcard includes a high quality photo and message that you create from your phone. Each postcard costs $.99.

Advocacy postagram

Imagine the possibilities of Postagram as an advocacy tool: You could ask your supporters (though email blasts, Facebook posts, direct asks at a rally, etc.) to take a few seconds with Postagram to send a personalized postcard to their policymaker/decision maker. It’s easy, it’s cheap, unique, and it would get the attention of a legislator if a few hundred (thousand?) postcards clogged their mailboxes.  It would sure beat a generic petition or e-mail. (See above for a Postagram on clean water action that I whipped up and sent to my Senator).

2. Square: Square allows you to process credit card transactions from a mobile phone.

Let’s face it, fewer and fewer people carry around a lot of cash these days, since debit cards are so ubiquitous. What if your donors had an easy way to use their credit card to donate to your “clean water” campaign, buy silent auction items, buy a piece of art at your art show, buy a campaign hat or t-shirt, you name it.

The bottom line: with Square, it’s a lot easier to collect donations in the field via credit card.

Here’s Kyle Andrei from Idealware explaining how it works:

3. QR Codes: Download a QR code reader to your smartphone, and you can scan QR codes like the one below. In this example, the code takes you to a page for registering your complaint (which ultimately gets delivered to a local decision maker through the app See Click Fix.) Try this one:

Activists can create their own QR codes through a QR code generator, and can link the QR code to a website, a donation page, a phone number, or an online petition, urging supporters to take action.  The code can be added to signage, email blasts, Facebook posts, or print materials to ensure it reaches a wide group of supporters ready to use their cell phones for activism.

4. Congress:  This Android app makes it very easy to locate and call a Congress app screen shot Congressperson, search for new legislation introduced to Congress, view results from the latest votes on various bills, and much more. Lots of possibilities here for community activists to work with supporters in generating calls and emails to a target legislator.

5. Foursquare: Placed-based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla have interesting uses for organizing protests and rallies. Or, organizations can simply encourage their supporters to leave “tips” strategically, such as to expose discriminatory practices at a location in the community. For example, as Heather Mansfield has pointed out, Foursquare “tips” have been left on Foursquare pages for pet stores that sell puppies from large-scale, commercial breeding facilities (commonly known as puppy mills). Here’s a tip left on a pet store Foursquare profile page in Tennessee:

Pupply mill tip on foursquare



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