Donate to Charity Right From Your Phone

Text-to-give services and new apps make it easy to make a difference

Person using a smartphone to donate during a charitable event.
••• Georgijevic / Getty Images

A call to donate by text has been a ubiquitous part of the coverage of every major tragedy at least since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It remains one of the fastest and easiest ways to make a small contribution to an urgent need. But it is only one of many ways that you can use your phone to make a difference to causes you care about.

Of course, if you have a favorite cause, you can go directly to the nonprofit organization's website. If you're not sure which organization is best, a site such as Charity Navigator can help you evaluate specific charities.

You can also donate while hanging out at your favorite social site. For example, Facebook makes it easy for its users to donate right on the site in response to a fundraising appeal. You can join the campaign and help raise funds from your family and friends. Just click the Donate button when you see it on a charity's Facebook page or in a post.

More Mobile Giving Trends

QR codes are another alternative to texting a donation. A QR code is a black-and-white square seen everywhere now on receipts to magazine ads. It contains information that a smartphone can scan. Some cause-marketing campaigns are now attaching QR codes to their direct mail campaigns so that donations can be sent via phone.

Charity App Heaven

Special apps for your smartphone are available for every cause, and they keep getting more creative.

If you want to donate to charity while you're out on your morning run, Charity Miles will track your distance and other vital statistics and make a donation to a charity of your choice for every mile you run. Share the Meal, an app from the United Nations World Food Program, lets you buy a meal for a needy child for as little as 50 cents, and encourages friendly competition by letting you know how many meals your friends have donated.

Donating by Text Is Still an Option

Giving by text became popular when flip phones were still in vogue. Text donations are still in use, especially in the immediate aftermath of disasters. To this day, Millennials and Gen Xers send their donations by text more than members of older generations.

If you have not donated by text and would like to experiment the next time a text-to-give campaign beckons, follow these simple directions.

How to Text a Donation

Every announcement of a campaign for text donations comes with a keyword to text and a short code number to send it to. For example, you might be asked to text the word "CHARITY" to the number 491062. Hit Send, and you've triggered a donation.

Wait to receive a text message asking you to confirm your donation. Click yes to finalize the transaction.

A text donation is usually limited to $5 or $10, and it is automatically charged to your mobile phone bill. Your donation goes to a company such as mGive that specializes in mobile donations.​ That company may charge a small fee for the transaction, which comes out of the donation to the charity. Depending on your mobile phone plan, your phone company may charge you a fee for sending the text. You may also be able to repeat your text donation up to a set amount, again depending on your phone carrier.

Don't expect a thank-you other than a short text message automatically sent to your phone. One of the features of mobile fundraising is that the charity receiving your donation does not know your name or address, so save your phone bill to use as a receipt if you plan to claim a tax deduction for the donation.