For the philanthropy-minded, it’s always a good time to support nonprofit organizations, whether it’s an animal rescue, a homeless shelter, a mentoring program for inner-city youths or something else entirely.
It’s even better if it’s easy to give to a favorite organization.
Here are four apps making it simple to support the causes you care about:
1. MyChange: Once you link your credit or debit card to this web tool (iOS and Android apps are coming soon, according to the website), it rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and donates the change to up to three nonprofits or political candidates of your choice.
How it works: Once you’ve accumulated at least $8 in rounded-up amounts, your card is charged/debited on the 20th of each month. Most banks, including credit unions and small local banks, work with MyChange, and you can cap your donations per month or pause your roundups if you’d like. If you’re donating to 501(3)(c) organizations, you will receive a statement noting your tax deduction (donations to political action committees and candidates are not tax-deductible).
Quick tip: While MyChange is a convenient way to support causes, a direct donation could have a larger impact, since MyChange deducts a 10 percent fee (5.5 percent for merchant and processing fees and 4.5 percent for MyChange administrative fees).
2. Bstow: Bstow works similarly to MyChange in that you link your credit card, debit card or checking account, and it rounds up all transactions on that account and donates the amount to the charity of your choice.
How it works: Btsow works with over 18,000 banks and credit unions, and users can donate to any of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., according to Bstow’s website.
Quick tip: Bstow is a simple and painless way to give to a charity, but like MyChange, it also deducts a fee from donations (1.8 percent for ACH processing for deductions from checking accounts or 3.9 percent plus 30 cents for credit cards).
3. Benefit Mobile: Benefit Mobile gives you the option to purchase digital gift cards via its app (available for iOS and Android) and earn a rebate that can be sent to the charity of your choice or applied to a life expense such as your mortgage or medical bills.
How it works: Digital gift cards can be purchased with a credit card, but Benefit Mobile users get a larger discount by linking to a bank account (since no credit card fees are involved). When paying with a bank account, the rebate amount ranges from about 2 percent at Amazon.com to 20 percent at Callaway Golf. For instance, recently I needed to swap out the CO2 cartridge on my Soda Stream, so I drove to Bed Bath & Beyond and used one of their 20 percent off coupons. I paid with the $25 digital gift card I’d purchased through the app and raised $1.50 (6 percent).
Quick tip: Digital gift cards are stored in the app, so if the company ever disbands, you could lose any value stored in the app. That’s why I wouldn’t buy digital gift cards until I plan to use them, and I wouldn’t leave much money sitting in this or any other app. Also, keep in mind that depending on the retailer, you may get better value through other payment methods.
For instance, Benefit Mobile offers a 2.5 percent rebate at Target, but I get a 5 percent discount with my Target Red card.
Lastly, by paying with a bank account to get the higher rebate amount, you forfeit any credit card rewards or protections. Even though Benefit Mobile offers digital gift cards at several airlines, I instead pay for flights with a rewards credit card that offers trip insurance and bonus points on travel purchases.
4. StreetChange: For people who would like to give directly to the homeless but don’t carry cash or want more control over how their money is spent, StreetChange makes it easy. StreetChange, which is a bit like a GoFundMe for Philadelphia-area homeless, is seeking to expand to other parts of the country. You can view pictures, profiles and needs of all StreetChange clients, with a special notification for any clients nearby and make a donation on the spot.
How it works: StreetChange clients receive a key fob that sends out a signal to people with the iOS app. When an app user is within a 150-foot radius of someone with a key fob, they receive a notification and can view the person’s story and wish list (food, clothing, haircut vouchers, for example).
When the homeless person receives enough donations to purchase something from their wish list (give a toothbrush, give a home, StreetChange’s website says), they receive a text message and can pick up the item at a local homeless service provider. At pickup, clients also can meet with a peer specialist or case manager who can help them access services such as health care, housing or job training.
Quick tip: Until StreetChange is available in your city, your change can make a difference in the lives of those living on the streets of Philadelphia. StreetChange is a finalist for the 2017 Scattergood Foundation Innovation Award.
See related: Startups, apps, issuers simplify charitable giving, Charity donations made in cash are more meaningful