iHobo app was launched by Depaul UK in 2010 and allows users to interact with a virtual youth on their iPhone who has just been made homeless. It received some interesting reviews. But was it a success? Many do not really engage with iHobo anymore. However, those of us who work with digital fundraising continue using it even now, more than a year on, as a classic case study combining gaming, mobile technology, awareness raising and fundraising in one small product. So how much do we know about iHobo really? While putting together 30 pages of a digital fundraising guide I have realised that I do not know much about iHobo at all! My personal, initial reactions to this app were very mixed. First I was really excited to see such a great idea; a charity moving to the mobile apps market to raise awareness, and bravely combining call for donations with a SMS messaging system. Great! I downloaded it and tested it for 3 days and gradually started feeling really depressed! I was then personally a great fan of positive messages, so this particular approach really upset me, but I did understand that it was completely intentional. The emotional triggers in app design were very well structured in order to drive donations. My social media savy friends criticised the app, again looking at the level of engagement. iHobo does not make you feel good, it is not addictive, it is not fun! It is sad, shocking, really depressing! You want the push notifications to stop, you feel helpless. My activist friends praised the charity for innovation and at least trying to target a new market with this serious issue. As time passed we did not hear much about the results of this campaign, though some of us now might know that in terms of stats is said to be very successful indeed. Judging from Apple Store stats, the app is the most popular charity app with over 100,000 downloads. What I would really like to see is a transparent case study from the charity themselves. Did iHobo achieve its objectives? How successful was it to drive donations? How successful was it in driving traffic to the charity website? And one question that really intrigues me: was it embedded in the existing processes and did it change the way Depaul UK uses mobile spaces for fundraising or communication with donors? I really hope that we will hear more about it because it IS a great case study and I think other charities have a lot that they can learn from the iHobo app.
(Originally posted on the 19th of October over at Spring-Giving, please check the comments section there for really good response from the above-mentioned charity)