GIVE Pgh: My Experience Building a PWA

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As a tech for good fellow with Net Impact, I was tasked with creating an impact project that would reach at least 250 people. The impact project I created is a progressive web app (PWA) called GIVE Pgh. The purpose of this app is for simpler charitable giving to non-profit organizations in the Pittsburgh area. The app will feature a new non-profit organization each month allowing users to donate through the JustGiving donation platform. This app aims to showcase the lesser known charity organizations in the Pittsburgh area that get overlooked.

The GIVE Pgh app aims to address the lack of support for smaller and lesser known charitable organizations in Pittsburgh. According to the 501c3 registry from the IRS, there are over 4,000 tax exempt or non-profit entities in the area. However, there are only a handful that get continuous recognition from the larger fundraisers throughout the region.

The GIVE Pgh app uses the JustGiving donation platform to provide simple and secure charitable giving. The simple donation integration API was used to achieve this. The app was developed with the GoodBarber app builder. The entire process was spent developing and designing the application. In addition, time was spent working with the JustGiving development team to get all the branding and necessary information for the app.

The GIVE Pgh app was published on April 29th, 2018. I have tested the app, but would like it to be tested by potential end users. The app has been downloaded by people in my personal network and I am awaiting feedback. I plan to take all feedback received and make adjustments to the app if necessary.

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With the help of the feedback from users, the GIVE Pgh app will give smaller charitable organizations the opportunity to have their missions spread across a different demographic. This exposure will help raise funds to continue to carry out the visions of these organizations.

The GIVE Pgh app will be sustained past this fellowship by becoming a non-profit organization. Currently I fund this project out of pocket as a progressive web app. However, I would like to upgrade the app from a PWA to a native application that would be available in the Google Play store for Android and the Apple App Store. I understand this is not an easy feat, however, I plan to file tax exempt status for GIVE Pgh and collaborate with interested people to grow this impact project.

There was a lot to learn during this process around patience, expectations, and the complexity of app building. Building an app, even if it is a progressive web app, is time consuming and takes both financial and technical wherewithal.

When I initially registered for an account on GoodBarber.com, I thought this was something that could be completed within a week or even two. I had my heart set on developing a native app to be published in the app stores for Android and Apple. After researching the requirements, I quickly realized this was not feasible given the time frame, strict guidelines for apps for the Apple App Store, and the financial side of it.

Given the shorter time frame and smaller budget, I opted to develop a progressive web app. This version of an application is available on PCs, tablets, and mobile phones unlike native apps. Once this part of the process was solidified, I needed to figure out the functionality of the app.

I went back and forth between PayPal for donations and JustGiving.com. PayPal for donations required me to accept any donations personally and distribute them, or have the PayPal account information of the charitable organizations, which is a difficult task. JustGiving was the better option for this project because they work directly with developers to help integrate their donation platform.

One of the challenges with working with developers is that the assume if you are building an app, you know how to code. I have very basic knowledge of html coding and CSS. Luckily I overcame this with the help of a Google software engineer and some very helpful coding material found online.

Now that the app is finished and has been published, there is a huge sense of relief and reward. Despite the financial challenges and technical challenges, a meaningful app was built that can potentially help raise funds for local charitable organizations to help further their missions.

This fellowship has provided leadership experience, and forced me to expand my technical skills around app development. As business analyst, improved technical skills is always a good thing. This will be helpful in my current role as well as in my future endeavors as I have another app idea.

To access the PWA, go to givepgh.goodbarber.com or click HERE. From your mobile device, you will have the opportunity to add the app to your home screen.

Author: Brittany M.

PhD - Community Engagement; MBA - International Business; BS - Biology/Chemistry; Net Impact - Tech for Good Fellow 2017-18; Board member - La Esuelita Arcoiris. Pittsburgh raised. Enjoy DIY crafting, interior decorating, cooking, and learning new things.

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