If you're anything like me, you'd really like to start giving to charity regularly, but can't quite get your act together to donate each month. While a recurring direct debit donation solves that one for you off the bat (and is one of the most popular ways to donate worldwide), there's another new way to get your giving on: apps focused on charitable giving. And many of them don't even require you to take money out of your own tiny, hopelessly drained pockets.
Of course, there are lots of apps out there that help you donate your own cash to worthy causes, from JustGiving's landmark app to GiveEasy. But the new trend in charitable apps is a bit different. Charities are now trying to figure how to use people's everyday activities, from jogging to photography to simply picking up their phone, to raise money for worthy causes.
The idea of making donations actively engaging, rather just than leaving you with an empty wallet, has been around for a while. The wildly popular game Free Rice, for instance, donates 10 grains of rice to end world hunger for each correct vocabulary question. But charity apps are making giving more mobile than ever — and these seven picks can help you convert your normal routine into fuel for causes you care about. It can't get any easier than this, can it? Get downloading, stat.
1. GoodSAM: Free
GoodSAM is an app that lets you engage in a very specific kind of charitable help: It links up injured people with first-aid-trained experts (the "good Samaritans" of the app's name) who can come and help for free. You can join GoodSAM either as an alerter (a person who lets local experts know about emergencies) or as a responder (a trained volunteer who can come to help).
The app uses this crowdsourced effort to fill in the gap between an accident and when professionals in ambulances can get to the scene. So GoodSAM is more than just a way to keep your first aid skills sharp — it could possibly save somebody's life.
2. Donate a Photo: Free
Donate a Photo is run by Johnson & Johnson, and is a so-called "free donation app" — meaning that you don't have to contribute a cent in order to make an actual donation to charity. Instead, the app asks for your photographs. You can donate one per day to the app, which will be matched by a $1 donation — so you can realistically donate up to $365 a year.
The limit of one photo per day does restrict the possible breadth of your help, but it's still not to be sniffed at. And the causes you can choose to support are regularly updated, with lots of details about where your photo money is going.
3. Budge: Free
The Budge app is for people who can't resist a dare, essentially. Except that the wager you've made — based on who wins a race, who can eat the most bananas, who can recite the most Beyonce lyrics, whatever you like — goes straight to a charity linked to the app.
Budge is more social than most individual giving apps, and creates a competitive impetus that might bond you closely with some of your friends — particularly if you make them bet $100 on the outcome of a cheese-eating challenge and then whip their asses.
4. Charity Miles: Free
Charity Miles is one of the most famous of the free donation apps. For every mile users run, an amount is donated to charity by the app's corporate sponsors. You're literally getting prize money for your athletic feats and donating it straight to charity. Serena Williams ain't got nothing on you.
Granted, the donation is a small amount — 10 cents a mile for bikers, 25 cents per mile for runners and walkers — but seeing it add up will not only make you feel good, but may give you motivation for your fitness regimen. So now you're basically allowed to feel twice as smug for exercising.
5. Tin Box: N/A
Tin Box is still being created, but it already seems too good to be true: Users of the app can give $1 to charity each day — but the dollar comes out of the pockets of corporate sponsors, not app users. It's a simple concept that's already starting to raise eyebrows, as the corporate sponsorship is paid out in return for advertising, but it's hardly blatant or showy: the company responsible for the $1 donation shows up on your smartphone for a maximum of five seconds after you donate.
The other special thing about Tin Box is that the causes are extremely specialized and focused, ranging from a floating Bangladeshi hospital to an education program about menstruation. When it launches, you'll be able to pick exactly where that free $1 goes.
6. Check-in for Good: Free
Check-in for Good hopes to utilize the same kind of mentality that motivates us to use FourSquare and other "checking in" apps to raise money for charity. It's not available when you check in everywhere, though. You have to check into participating businesses (or an event of your own that you've pledged as a donation spot), who'll then convert your check-in into a cash donation.
7. Give 2 Charity: Free
The only catch is that the app uses your GPS data to track your location while you use your phone, and then applies that info to survey questions — but your data and information are apparently very clearly protected. But perhaps it's not an app designed for the charitable yet paranoid.