4 things a killer app for donating to charity needs


Adam Cecil

Adam Cecil

Former Staff Writer

Adam Cecil is a former staff writer for Policygenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. He is a podcast producer, writer, and video maker based in Brooklyn, NY.

Published August 28, 2017 | 5 min read

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I open Product Hunt almost every week to find a new app that’s going to revolutionize my finances. There are apps that help you invest your spare change , save automatically , and budget until your eyes glaze over . But I feel like there’s a whole aspect of my financial life that’s being ignored: my charitable giving.

According to a 2016 survey, 82% of Americans say that donating to charity is important to them, but only one in four Americans donate consistently throughout the year. If you’re a cynic, you might say that there’s a disparity between those two numbers because people don’t actually care about charitable donations. But let’s posit another theory: more people would make good on their aspiration to be a charitable giver if there was a killer app for it.

Here are four things I think a killer app for charity should do.

##1. It should help you pick and choose charities that matter to you

Finding a charity to donate to isn’t the most difficult task in the world. You might already know of good ones through your community – your church might have a few partnerships, for example, or your child might bring home a school fundraiser like Jump Rope For Heart.

What if you want to break out of that bubble? There might be a few charities visible thanks to trending topics and recent tragedies, but otherwise, you’re looking at putting time aside to research charities. Tools like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can help you out, but it’s this kind of homework that encourages procrastination from your average busy Joe.

But what if donating to a wide variety of charities that fit your values and goals were as easy as using an investment tool like Wealthfront, Acorns, or Robinhood? Apps like Betterment makes it easy to invest in hundreds of companies by putting your money into funds. It would be cool to be able to donate to “funds” of charities as well – a themed group of high-quality organizations doing similar work.

Alternatively, the app could just use artificial intelligence to help you pick the charities you might be interested in supporting. Want to give money to an organization that feeds the homeless in your local area? Finding one should be as easy as answering a few questions in the app, the same way Betterment and determine your risk tolerance and investment suggestions.

##2. It should keep you updated on the work the charities are doing

How many newsfeeds do you have in your life right now? On my phone, I can think of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Ello, just to name a few. Why not add another feed to the list?

My ideal charity app would keep me up-to-date on all of the work the charities I’ve donated to in the last year are doing. This could be as simple as aggregating their posts on other platforms – like the aforementioned Twitter and Facebook – or actually asking the organizations themselves to post updates in the app.

Seeing the work that your money is going toward every time you open the app will not only encourage you to keep donating, but might just encourage you to increase your donation.

##3. It should gather all of your tax documents at the end of the year

While some people don’t donate to charity for the tax benefits, being able to take a tax deduction on your charitable donations is a nice side effect. But keeping track of and organizing the paperwork for multiple monthly donations can be a huge drag.

It would be helpful if an app that made donating to charities easier also made dealing with paperwork easier. This could be something like sending you a document with all of your charitable donations at the end of the year, or just keeping a virtual folder of your receipts so you have them all in one place.

Even better – an integration with a service like TurboTax to automatically import your charitable giving.

##4. It should consolidate your charitable giving into one monthly payment

If you have multiple recurring donations set up already, you probably know how annoying it can be to track the different payments being taken out of your bank account. What if, instead of multiple withdrawals throughout the month, this app just took one payment out every month? It would be as easy to track and predictable as a monthly Netflix or phone bill. Plus, it would save everyone the credit or debit card processing fees.

This app could just consolidate your different donations into one monthly payment, but it could also work backwards. Let’s say you have $10 to donate every month. The app could help you choose the charities you want to give to – anywhere between one and ten. You’re not giving much to each individual charity, but the app could take all of those small donations and consolidate them into one big payment on the backend. Then, instead of receiving many $1 donations, the charity would be getting one big donation every month from the app.

##What features are you looking for?

This is my idea for a killer app that would make charitable giving as easy and fun as budgeting or investing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Let us know what you’d want out of an app that helps you donate to charity in the comments below.

Image: MicroStockHub