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Got a Smartphone and a Spare Minute? 4 Ways to Give Back

Dec. 24, 2011
Personal Finance
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The gist: It’s the holidays, so you’re probably waiting in line, whether it’s the checkout or airport security line. If you’ve got a smartphone and a minute to spare, you can still give back.

It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone’s feeling the added stress. Whether or not you celebrate the holiday, you’re facing interminable lines in the supermarket, sugar-high kids and frazzled parents at the mall, and airport security lines people who love to line their pockets with metallic objects and 4-oz bottles of liquid. But while you’re waiting, you can still give back.

1. Microvolunteering

Microvolunteering is a new trend that connects busy volunteers with bite-size tasks for nonprofits. Without having to register with each individual nonprofit, unsubscribe from 1,000 mailing lists or wade through bureaucratic swamps, you can volunteer whatever time you can spare.‘s tasks can include giving feedback about a fundraising letter, brainstorming outreach strategies, translating, or compiling data. Whether you’ve got 5 minutes or 50, they have fulfilling, manageable tasks that you can accomplish via smartphone or computer. Get of Facebook. Get volunteering.

2. Think green and donate by doing

TheDonation is a UK-based site that believes that your lifestyle and habits can be a donation as much as cash is. How does it work? People post “fundraising challenges” that can include taking fewer flights, biking to work, avoiding meat, and simply taking the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator. You can do these tasks anywhere, and they all add up to a smaller carbon footprint (and, incidentally, a smaller waistline for you: many of their tasks have auxiliary health benefits).

3. Share your expertise and opinions

Our first opportunity optimized for smartphones, Do Some Good (another UK-based company) lets you download an iPhone, Android, Nokia or BlackBerry app and micovolunteer on the go. Tasks can include taking photos for charities, participating in surveys or polls, promote awareness or donate your skills. That last category can include writing, translation, and more. The app currently has 12 actions. Tasks relevant to American users include sharing thoughts about biking to work, donating your photos to an online image bank for charities, translation and submitting science-related questions.

4. Donate via text

Of course, no nonprofit will ever turn down cash. You can donate simply by texting to a certain number. The donation will show up on your cellphone bill, which is enough of a record for tax purposes as long as the (IRS-approved) charity’s name, the date and the donation amount are shown. Ever heard “Text [insert keyword] to [5-digit number] for a $10 donation?” This is it. If you don’t feel comfortable sending money via smartphone, this is a more secure way to donate. A Google search of [your cause] + “text to donate” will yield you a solid list, or check out MakeUseOf’s list of 6 charities that allow cellphone donations.

Happy holidays from NerdWallet!