News Column

Donate With Your Smartphone Apps

Nov. 18, 2012

By Alice Truong, @alicetruong, Special for USA TODAY

donation, smartphone, apps

It's that time of the year again: a season of giving. But for the well-intentioned and cash strapped, we've found apps (and even a gadget) that will let you donate to charity without spending a dime:

Tap for a Cause. It's one of the simplest ways to raise money without lifting a finger (well, almost). Every time you open up a new tab, the non-profit's sponsors make a small donation to charity.

The Chrome and Firefox extension replaces blank tabs with new ones that display a donation tracker, news about different causes and an ad. That last one means every new tab donates fractions of a penny to a choice of seven charities, including Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and Educate, a non-profit that fosters entrepreneurship in Uganda.

The total funds, if they reach at least $40, are donated at the end of each fiscal quarter; if less than $40, they roll over to the next quarter. Getting started is as simple as a click to install.

Charity Miles app. Every mile that you walk, run or bike with this app -- available for Apple iOS and Google Android devices -- means money raised for your choice of nine non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Sponsors donate a dime for each mile that's biked, and a quarter for each mile traveled by foot, up to $1 million, the sum of Charity Miles' initial sponsorship pool.

Walking with smart pedometer Striiv can benefit a variety of causes. With the help of corporate sponsors, every time you reach 18,000 steps, you earn enough to donate clean water to a child in South America, give polio vaccinations for a child in India or conserve about a parking lot-size area of rainforest in Tanzania. For now, the older Striiv pedometer ($99.95) has this program. The company needs to work with Apple to incorporate this charity feature with the rollout of the newer Play smart pedometer ($69.95) and iPhone app.

LevelUp (iOS, Android). The mobile payments app also has a charitable side: a built-in loyalty rewards program with participating merchants. Instead of pocketing the savings, you can donate some or all to a charity from a list of more than 25, including the National Wildlife Federation, Jumpstart and Whole Planet Foundation. After Hurricane Sandy, LevelUp is encouraging its users to donate to relief efforts, with proceeds going to chapters of the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and AmeriCares, organizations with which it has no official partnership.

Shopkick (iOS, Android). The shopping app lets you earn points, or kicks, each time you walk into stores, such as Target, Macy's and Best Buy -- no purchase necessary. If you link your Visa or MasterCard to your account, you'll earn additional kicks for your shopping trips. When it's time to redeem these rewards, you can choose to get vouchers and gift cards for various retailers, but there's also an option to donate your kicks to causes, such as clean water for people in developing countries, meals to the hungry, books for children and more.

Socialvest. A percentage of your purchases from more than 600 retailers can be donated to 1.5 million charities. There are two routes to earn Socialvest dollars: You can shop through the company's online website or at physical stores the app has partnered with (e.g. Barnes & Noble, Macy's, Gap) using a registered credit card.

E-mail Alice Truong at techcomments

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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