Samaritan's Purse

Delivering joy to children around the world, Samaritan's Purse launches a powerful new mobile app built & supported by their in-house web team.

How a major aid organization rebuilt their native mobile app in eight weeks with Ionic.

The Company

Samaritan’s Purse is an international relief organization focused on providing aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine. 

One of the major aid projects of Samaritan’s Purse is Operation Christmas Child.

Operational Christmas Child (OCC) provides local partners with donated shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities during the Christmas holiday season and beyond. Since 1993, OCC has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 168 million children in more than 100 countries.

The Challenge

The OCC project includes a mobile app that helps donors find drop-off locations, access resources and FAQs, and get news and information.

The app was originally developed for iOS in partnership with an outside vendor, written in Swift code and built using Apple’s native SDK. 

An internal development team at Samaritan's Purse, led by Chris Hampton, Senior Application Developer & Team Lead, took over the app after it was built. Chris and his team had a background in JavaScript and .NET development, but were not versed in iOS or Android native mobile app development. 

As a result, the team struggled to maintain the original mobile app, which went largely untouched for a period of a few years.

“We didn’t have anyone who was knowledgeable of Swift, and eventually the app became outdated. We tried updating it on our own, but we ran into a lot of issues." 

Chris Hampton, Senior Application Developer & Team Lead

The Strategy

Rather than continuing to maintain the original OCC mobile app, Chris and his team decided to rebuild it using Ionic. 

Because Ionic apps are written largely in JavaScript and work with popular JS frameworks like Angular and React, Chris and his team felt confident that they could develop a new version of the app quickly, and would be in a better position to manage it over time. 

Finally, given the critical nature of the project, the team at Samaritan’s Purse chose to become an Ionic Enterprise customer, in order to gain access to Ionic’s Support & Advisory services, as well as having access to a library of Premier plugins - fully supported and maintained by Ionic - for enabling native functionality in the app. 

“[With Ionic] I was able to get a working prototype within a week. Total turnaround time, including testing approvals, took a total of eight weeks. But the core app was built in a week. That’s the power of Ionic. You can get an app up-and-running very quickly."

Chris Hampton, Senior Application Developer & Team Lead

Key Benefits & Results

  • Accelerated time to market. After successfully creating a working prototype in the first week, the team delivered a fully tested and approved version of the app for iOS and Android within just eight (8) weeks.
  • Reduced maintenance costs. Compared to building with native toolsets and maintaining multiple codebases in parallel across iOS and Android, the team’s choice of Ionic has resulted in reduced maintenance costs and accelerated delivery of new features.
  • Realtime delivery of new versions & updates. Given the web-based nature of Ionic, Chris and his team were able to integrate the OCC app with their content management system (CMS), which allows them to update resources in the app in realtime, without having to go through the app store approval and update process.
  • Easy access to geolocation and other native features. One of the most important functions of the OCC app is helping donors search for and find one of the 3,500+ worldwide drop-off locations, based on their current location. The feature is powered, in part, by a native geolocation plugin available in Ionic Enterprise.
  • Access to Ionic experts. As an Ionic Enterprise customer, Samaritan’s Purse had direct access to Ionic engineers, as part of Ionic’s Advisory program. They use a shared Slack channel to routinely ask questions, share ideas, and pose questions to the Ionic team.

    For example, according to Chris, when they recently ran into an issue trying to get a badge component to increment properly, they put a message in the shared Slack channel and immediately got help to resolve the problem. He estimates that having access to Ionic’s engineers has saved weeks of potentially wasted time that they used to focus on new feature development instead.

“The Advisory team has been great, and super responsive.  I’d say that in total Ionic Advisory has saved us at least 2-3 weeks that would otherwise be spent looking at documentation or searching on Google or Stack Overflow.

Interested in donating to Samaritan’s Purse?

If you’re interested in supporting Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, you can download the mobile app featured in this article, or learn about donations and drop-off locations here.

National Collection Week for 2019, the drop-off window for most OCC drop-off locations, is November 18 - 25, but they will continue to accept donations at their major processing centers through mid-December.

You can also make a financial donation to Samaritan’s Purse at any time.

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