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Startups, apps, issuers simplify charitable giving

Kelly Dilworth

If you rarely get around to donating to good causes because you feel too busy to repeatedly enter your credit card details, write and mail a check or fill out a cumbersome form online, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, card issuers and a handful of startups are making it easier to give to your favorite nonprofits and charities.

Here’s a quick recap of recent developments to make donating simpler and quicker:

Apple: The tech giant announced Nov. 14 that Apple Pay users can now instantly donate to participating nonprofits with just a few clicks on their mobile phones. Participating nonprofits include the American Red Cross, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Nature Conservancy, the American Cancer Society, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and PBS.

Amazon: The online retailer has made donating to participating nonprofits as easy as instant shopping. I recently donated to the nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica through my Amazon.com account, and it took just seconds to complete. (I did have to go directly to the nonprofit’s donation page to make the donation, though. Amazon doesn’t appear to have a central directory to search for participating groups.)

Facebook: Last year, the social media giant began allowing nonprofits to add a “donate now” button to their pages so that visitors could quickly jump to donation pages after reading a call to action.

Credit card issuers: Capital One, American Express, Discover and Citi all have online giving programs that let you easily donate your card rewards or use your card to give to participating nonprofits.

Startups, mobile apps make donating simpler
A growing number of startups are introducing apps and other online tools that allow for quick and seamless giving. The goal, tech advocates say, is to make instant giving as easy as instant shopping.

“E-commerce has removed all the friction from the payment process,” tech entrepreneur Charles Huang said in a 2015 interview with Boston Magazine. “But the entire industry of payment technologies has forgotten about nonprofits.”

To help take the pain out of donating online, Huang and his partners launched Charitweet, which lets users instantly tweet donations to their favorite charities. Users have to fill out their personal and payment details just once to use the service.

“We’re making it easier to donate to charity,” said Huang. “You shouldn’t have to think about how to do it, just why.”

The 2-year-old company Goodworld works similarly. Users can donate instantly just by commenting with the hashtag #donate on a participating nonprofit’s Facebook page or by tweeting at a participant’s Twitter handle.

A number of smartphone apps have also popped up in recent years to help increase donations for good causes.

For example, Givelify lets consumers give to participating churches and nonprofits with just a few clicks on the app.

Similarly, the Daily Karma lets users scroll through “inspiring videos and photos” and instantly donate to the causes that move them.

But nonprofits often pay a price for the convenience
Advocates say that instant giving tools help charities turbocharge their total earnings and reach more donors. But nonprofits often pay a price for participating. Many donation tools charge a significant fee for processing the transaction.

For instance, Facebook charges a 2 percent fee for “nonprofit vetting, fraud protection, operational costs and payment support” and an additional 3 percent fee for processing.

Credit card issuers also typically charge vendors a 1.5 percent to 3 percent transaction fee each time you authorize a payment directly to a nonprofit. Capital One’s No Hassle Giving program waives the card transaction fee so that 100 percent of your donation goes to the designated charity.

Bottom line: While giving is easier – even instantaneous in many cases now – you should check with the tech companies, startups and your card issuer to see how much of your donation goes directly to your favorite cause.

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