Almost all of us have a smartphone. In fact, Pew Research says that 81% of us own smartphones.
Most of us also like giving to charity. Consequently, many people have been working on integrating our phones with our love for supporting good causes. Today there are plenty of apps for charitable giving.
It must be said that the best way to donate to a charity is by researching it carefully and then giving directly. If you are already doing that, and want to add a little fun while doing good, then smartphone apps let us give to our charities while on the go and doing things we enjoy.
Here are several of my favorite charity apps. I picked these for ease-of-use, transparency, and fun factors. Pick one or more and try them out. Make charitable giving an everyday affair.
ShareTheMeal fights global hunger through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The concept is simple. Tap the app on your phone and give 80 cents. That will feed one child for one day.
ShareTheMeal has been around for several years, so the bugs are pretty much worked out. You can donate personally, or you can join a team. You can also enable a monthly gift to make it even easier. A special option is called "The Table." This option requires a monthly donation, but you are paired with a specific family and can receive information about them.
Why not use the app whenever you sit down to a meal? Help feed the hundreds of thousands of hungry people in the world.
Advantages: It’s simple to use and quite transparent. I like that this app is family-friendly too. Kids and parents will enjoy helping families in need.
Disadvantages: It is true that 62% of contributions to this program go to feeding people, while the rest covers overhead. Is that ratio acceptable? It's a little low. Charity Navigator suggests that spending on programs should be between 65% and 75% of a charity's overall budget. However, this program allows us to do something that would be difficult on our own.
This app is a keeper for sure. What do we do with our phones? Take photos and more photos. Here’s a way to turn them into charitable do-gooding. And it costs nothing. That's because Johnson & Johnson sponsors this app.
For every photo you send to J&J’s website with this app, the company donates $1 to a good cause. And those causes are many. You pick the cause you want to help from the curated list J&J has assembled. The only hard part is that you can donate only one photo per day.
Your photo ends up in an online gallery, but it’s safe there. You can also share what you’re doing with friends and family so they can share their photos too. Browse through the gallery of photos for a shot of good feelings.
Advantages: Free, easy to do, fits right into our lifestyles.
Disadvantages: It is hard to find any disadvantages with this app, although it might not be suitable for people concerned about privacy. The app is perfect for those who like sharing. Not so much for those people who don't.
Charity Miles was one of the first charity apps, and it has proven to be quite popular. You run, walk, bike, whatever, and a small amount of money gets donated to a charity for each mile. Run in a group or belong to a running club? Charity Miles makes a great addition to the experience.
You don’t donate yourself. Corporations sponsor your miles. You can choose the charity you wish to support from those preselected by Charity Miles.
Advantages: No money! No credit cards! No fee! Just move around, and contributions happen.
Disadvantages: Donations are limited to the charities preselected. There are more than 40 listed, but all are large national charities. You won't find your small local charity here. There is no way of knowing how much your activity has donated to your charity, either.
Does your life revolve around your dog? If so, you'll love this walking app that donates to animal shelters. Animal groups often use this app and get their supporters to use it. You can check the app to see if your local shelter is listed, or you can choose another to receive your donations.
Look for "challenges" by animal groups. Walking your dog earns points, and then donations are paid by sponsors and advertisers.
Don't have a dog? There is an option for that too. You can walk for "Cassie" (a generic shelter dog) or create a fantasy dog of your own on the app.
Advantages: It's fun, free, and motivating.
Disadvantages: A little tricky to learn, and although you earn points, you really don't know how much money is donated unless you contact your shelter. So, transparency could be improved.
This app is truly set it and forget it. It rounds up your purchases throughout the month and donates that amount to a charity of your choice.
Just sign up on the app, link your credit card or debit card, and then shop as usual. The app rounds up all the loose change and donates at the end of the month.
You can set a maximum amount to donate as well. You'll be notified of how much you've donated at the end of the month, and you will receive messages from your charity. There is a minimum of $5.00 per month so expect that amount to be charged even if you shop very little.
Advantages: Easy to use, no fees, lots of charities to choose from. Good transparency.
Disadvantages: Requires a certain amount of trust and might be too easy to forget about. A fee is charged to the nonprofit. Great for already good money managers, not so great for folks on a slim margin.