Kids use their smartphones to find the nearest pizza joint, stay connected with friends on Facebook and keep up with their fantasy football team.
So what about supporting a good cause during the holiday season? There are smartphone apps for that, too.
The mobile industry is creating more programs for iPhones, Android devices and other formats that will take you to a favorite charity — whether it’s donating money to purchase cows that will help feed a village in Africa, purchasing playground equipment for a community park or supporting victims of superstorm Sandy.
One of the newest apps is from a company call FlowPay. Created by an ordained minister and aimed at the 18-to-35-year-old market, FlowPay allows donors to create an account, designate their preferred nonprofit or religious organization, set up a payment method and get an email receipt. Donors can also access their giving history online.
Another way to donate is to play PetEarth, an iPhone game in which players take care of a pet and deal with an assortment of problems, including polluters. GoPlanit, which developed the game, will donate a part of its revenues to help plant trees worldwide.
Two other popular apps: Shazam allows users to donate money to combat AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis in Africa, while Bliss raises money for breast cancer research.
There are several charity applications for Facebook users. One of the most popular is called Good Samaritan. Purchase products and services at discounted prices or fill out marketing survey — each time you do a donation will be made to your charity of choice.
Donating money in the wired world might be convenient, but it can also come with many of the same risks of picking a charity after getting a telephone call or a pitch in the mail.
Before pledging, do a little detective work on the organization. Is it well managed? Are the funds put to use as intended or are they soaked up in administrative expenses?
You can research more than 1.8 million charities at the justgive.org website (www.justgive.org). It organizes the 1,000 largest national organizations by causes, allows you to make your donation online and even provides a tax receipt. There’s also a “Giving Wisely” tool that can help donors determine how much to give.
I also recommend reviewing Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org). It also has an extensive data base of charitable organizations and even provides a four-star rating system that grades each group’s financial performance.
The nonprofit watchdog also provides advice on how to stretch your donation and tells you about some of the risks and how to avoid them.
• At the top of the list: Avoid telemarketers who are cold-calling for donations. “Avoid them and their generally high fundraising costs,” Charity Navigator said.
• Find the perfect fit. Don’t give money to an organization that isn’t an exact match for your good-hearted goals.
• Don’t forget non-Sandy charities. According to Charity Navigator, the outpouring of support to disaster charities has crimped the flow of money to other relief organizations. Consider these groups so they won’t have to cut programs and services, the website said.
Finally, consider the Good Card, a gift card offered by Charity Navigator. Pick an amount to load on the card — from $10 to $250 — and send it to a friend or family member who then selects the charity or charities to receive the donation.
Though too late this holiday season for mail delivery, there’s an email option that includes a link to Charity Navigator encouraging the recipient to research the organization before making the selection.
You get the tax deduction. Your recipient gets the card and a quick tutorial on how to choose a good cause.