Sharing While Shopping

New technology makes it easier than ever to land on Santa’s “nice” list.


Services, such as Causes, SwipeGood and Sparked, tap Facebook, smartphones and the web to help people and charities in need. With the spare change from your morning coffee or the 10 minutes as you wait to pick up your child from a piano lesson, you can contribute to your local school or to a charity of choice. You can also encourage friends to give – and even engage in some friendly competition to raise money for a good cause.


In this season of sharing and shopping, here are four ways you can give your time or money – in most cases, without even leaving the comfort of your home.



Shop and Give

You need to shop. It’s the holidays, after all. But if you purchase items from certain online retailers, such as Amazon, you can also raise funds for a charity or school at the same time.


On Ark (, you earn funds as you shop at sites such as Amazon, Best Buy, iTunes, Orbitz and Living Social. For each purchase, a small percentage of the total (about five percent) is added into your balance. As it adds up, you can distribute the funds to any number of charities and schools.


The site taps into your Facebook network and incorporates social networking and gaming elements, such as a leaderboard, to show the site’s top earners. News feed lets you know how much your friends just raised or donated.


Similarly, on GoodShop, GoodSearch and GoodCoupons (, you raise money as you surf the web, clip online coupons and make purchases at online retailers, such as Nordstrom, Gap and Crate and Barrel. You must register and designate a charity before you start shopping.


Through SwipeGood (, each purchase you make on your credit card or debit card – whether it’s online or at your neighborhood grocery store –  earns some change for your cause.


Swipegood rounds up the total to the nearest dollar, collects the spare change and donates the funds to your cause each month.


There are nearly 800 participating charities, including KQED and the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford for families with ailing children seeking hospital care.


Once you sign up for SwipeGood, you register your credit card or debit card. You can set a monthly limit or pause at any time.



Social Giving

How many pairs of new socks do you really need? Instead of holiday gifts (or for that matter, birthday gifts), you can ask your friends to donate to your favorite nonprofit through Causes (, a Facebook application. Approximately $30 million has been raised for 25,000 nonprofits, according to the San Francisco startup.




With work, children, after-school activities and other commitments, sometimes you just can’t carve out a regular large block of time to volunteer in your community.


Through Sparked (, you can spend small amounts of time at any time of the day – during soccer practice or after the baby is asleep, for instance –  to help a nonprofit or school.


Through Sparked – formerly known as the Extraordinaries – volunteers help design logos, research, brainstorm ideas and strategies and perform other tasks to help nonprofits that are strapped for money, staff and expertise. All work is done through the web or on your smartphone.


Recent projects included translating web pages from English to Dutch for the We Women Foundation, designing a poster for a New Jersey middle school and editing a promotional video for the Lambi Fund of Haiti.



Microlending and Microdonations

When it comes to giving, every little bit helps.


Through GlobalGiving (, you donate small amounts of money designated to a particular cause. For instance, $50 can buy shoes for five boys in Nairobi, part of a larger effort to help children who have been living on the streets of Nairobi. For $15, a child can attend kindergarten for a year in rural India.


Through Kiva (, you can lend as little as $25 to individuals in need around the globe. You can contribute, for example, to a garment factory worker in Cambodia who wants to purchase a van to help her and fellow workers go to work or to a woman in Kenya who wants to raise chickens for a profit. Eventually the money is returned to you, so that you can lend it again.


So, as you are shopping for your family and friends this season, keep in mind that it’s easy as a click on the computer to give to a cause of your choice.


Ellen Lee writes about technology for Bay Area Parent.

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