Nov 05

11 Ways to Use Charity Apps to Give Back For Free (or Cheap)

You’re busy. I’m busy. Busy Philipps is busy being Busy. We’re all busy. But you don’t need a ton of free time to help a charity. And you don’t need a ton of disposable income either. As someone who has neither of those things, these 11 iOS charity apps can make it quick, easy, and at least a little bit fun for me to contribute to different philanthropic organizations.

 

Of course, most of these apps won’t benefit your favorite causes as much as a direct donation will. (If you don’t have a fave yet, you can vet charities online on Charity Navigator.) But if you don’t have the cash to give right now, you can download one (or all!) of the below to help out in a smaller way. 

 

Help while you eat

1) ShareTheMeal

What it is:

Give meals to feed children around the world.

 

How it works:

Tap the yellow “Share The Meal” button to donate $0.50 (the cost of one meal) to a kid somewhere in the world. Created by the World Food Programme, ShareTheMeal accepts all payment options, and 90 percent of your donation goes straight to the cause, while the rest pays for administrative costs. Plus, if you want to do more than just feed one kid for a day, you can swipe to expand your donation to feed a child for a week, several months, a year, or you can set up a recurring monthly donation.

 

Why?

Because with just $0.50, you can feed a hungry kid. And with their “Camera Giving” feature, ShareTheMeal makes it easy to spread the goodwill. Take a picture of your food, make a donation, give your photo one of their exclusive #ShareTheMeal filters, and post it on the social media platform of your choice. They hope your acai bowl will encourage a friend or ten to donate and share a photo too, giving new meaning to “say cheese.”

 

Help while you exercise

2) Charity Miles

What it is:

Donate money while you sweat.

 

How it works:

Turn on the app before you go for a walk, run, or bike ride, and for every mile you travel, corporate sponsors donate money to a charity of your choice.

 

Why?

Because your exercise can get your philanthropy off and running. They’ve got podcasts, exercises, and stories if you need some inspiration, teams so you can bond with other Charity Miles exercisers in your area, and a continually updating list of perks — discounts, free stuff, recipes — from some of their corporate sponsors. By pairing exercise and giving, Charity Miles is good for your heart on two levels.

 

3) Lazy Jar

What it is:

Make fitness failures a win.

 

How it works:

Track your weekly activity goal (20,000 steps, 2 hours of activity, burn 8,000 calories, etc.) using a Fitbit, and pair those goals to a monetary value, say $5, over a six-month activity commitment. They even ask for a $30 “security deposit” to make sure you’re serious. If you hit your weekly goal, you keep your money. If for any week during the six months you don’t, the app takes that money — and donates 80 percent to childhood cancer research (the other 20 percent goes to keeping the app running).

 

Why?

You’ll get exercise motivation and soften the blow when you don’t meet your goals. After all, not hitting them means you’ll give more $$ to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Lazy Jar may be one of the least direct ways to help on this list since donating is technically the punishment, but it’s definitely going to motivate you to better your life and, hopefully, someone else’s.

 

Help while you game

4) Sea Hero Quest

What it is:

Fight dementia while you navigate and sail the high seas in a cute, little tugboat game.

 

How it works:

You memorize the map and then navigate your boat around buoys to earn starfish. Scientists use how well you do in the game to better understand dementia. Users’ anonymous navigation data will help them to develop a baseline from which to identify and measure dementia’s effects.

 

Why?

As a guy who plays a decent amount of games, I think Sea Hero Quest is fun and a way better game than it has any need to be. You’re the son of a sea captain, and you’re taking your father on a tugboat through the old routes of his adventure journal because he has dementia and can’t remember them. That story is very sad (the trailer legit made me cry), but the game is quite cute. Shoot flares. Race against the clock. Dodge icebergs. Snap pics of sea monsters. Customize your tugboat. And more. You can even play it in Virtual Reality. The 80 levels can get legitimately challenging, while never taking more than a minute each. And in just two minutes of playing, the spatial navigation data of Sea Hero Quest provides data that’s equal to 5 hours of in-lab study.  

 

5) WeShelter

What it is:

With just the tap of your finger, you can financially support New York City homeless service organizations.

 

How it works:

You open the app and tap the button any time you see someone struggling with homelessness. You can also tap it whenever and wherever you want. As many times as you want. Each tap donates money from corporate sponsors (you’ll see an ad for about 5 seconds after every tap) directly to NYC homeless service organizations (90 percent goes to the charities, 10 percent covers operational costs).

 

Why?

Because as of 2017, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report, over 500,000 Americans are struggling with homelessness. While WeShelter currently only operates in NYC, you don’t have to live there to tap and help someone struggling. (I’m in LA and have tapped 68 times so far.) More taps, no matter where you are, can only help.

 

Help while you gram

6) Donate a Photo

What it is

Turn those 10,000 photos of your dog into cash for a charity.

 

How it works

Choose a cause from the list, pick a photo from your phone, and upload it to the Donate a Photo gallery. Johnson & Johnson donates $1 to your charity. You can upload one photo a day.

 

Why?

Because swapping a photo for a $1 donation to a charity seems like a good trade. I, like you, asked, “How do they use the photos?” According to the terms of use, your photos can be used to promote the sponsored charities and Donate a Photo itself (for ads and in their photo gallery). They won’t use your photos to promote any other Johnson & Johnson product, though. If that’s cool with you (it was with me), start donating photos today!

 

Help while you shop

7) Benefit

What it is:

Buy gift cards. Earn money for schools and non-profits.

 

How it works:

Link your credit card or checking account to Benefit. Then the next time you’re checking out at a store or online, open the app, select the retailer, type in the purchase price, and Benefit will immediately create a virtual gift card you can use to pay for your purchase. The checkout person can scan it right there. The retailer then donates 2 to 20 percent of your purchase (it varies by retailer) to the school or non-profit of your choice. Most retailers were under 10 percent, but respect to Callaway Golf for being the only flat 20 percent.

 

Why?

Benefit adds charitable donations to purchases you were already making, and it works at nearly 200 retailers across the country and online — AMC, Amazon, Auto Zone to name a few that start with A. All it costs you is an extra 30 seconds when you’re checking out (although, some retailers make you print the gift card first if you’re using it in person). You can earn up to $1,000 for your charities each year, at no cost to you! (There’s a $1 processing fee cut from the checks they send the charities, and a $20 fee to you if your checking account bounces.)

 

8) GiveTide

What it is:

Give the change from your everyday purchases to charity.

 

How it works:

Connect your credit and/or debit cards. Then, each purchase you make is rounded up to the nearest whole dollar, and the difference (the “change”) is given to the charity of your choice. 

 

Why:

To make change without changing your life. Rounding up your purchases is pretty common for financial apps. Others like Round Up and Coin Up will also donate your change. But I like GiveTide’s interface the best and their processing fees were the smallest of the bunch (Roundup is 10 percent and Coin Up is 15 percent in comparison to GiveTide’s 9 percent). You’re paying them so you don’t have to do the math and work yourself.

 

9) Shoparoo

What it is:

Take pictures of your receipts to earn money for a school.

 

How it works:

Take pictures of your receipts, any receipts, to earn money for a school.

 

Why?:

Grocery receipts generate a cash donation to the school. All other receipts earn entries into donation sweepstakes where your school can win up to $15,000. Shoparoo is an easier, updated version of collecting box tops. Companies pay for the anonymous Shoparoo data — the same way they did with the box tops back in the day. No matter how big your receipt, from the CVS giants to the small unnecessary ones for a cup of coffee, every purchase you make can make a difference.

 

Help while you do anything else

10) MicroHero

What it is:

Answer quizzes to help charities.

 

How it works:

Choose from a list of charities and for every quiz you complete, money will go to that charity.

 

Why?

It’s small–a few bucks here and there–but it’s something. Companies pay apps like MicroHero and the location-based Give 2 Charity for your anonymous quiz answers, so those companies can better advertise to people in your demographic.

 

11) Be My Eyes

What it is:

See for the blind.

 

How it works:

Answer live visual questions for a blind person over a FaceTime call.

 

Why?

You’ll be making an immediate impact on someone’s life. Unlike the rest of the apps on this list, you’ll actively be participating in helping someone and be able to see the difference you’re making in real time. For example, you might identify something in a photo for someone, or get on a live call with a person who can’t tell if a can is baked beans or bean soup. Or if their milk is expiring soon. Or if this is a six-pack of soda or beer. And hundreds of other, probably less food-based, questions.