The explosion of mobile technology (including applications) in recent years has caused many nonprofits and foundations to begin considering ways to include mobile technology in their marketing and operational strategies. Most often these strategies include converting websites into a mobile-friendly format, sending text message alerts and developing mobile applications.

However, these measures can prove costly, and sometimes unnecessary. There are several applications already in existence that can engage citizens in giving back to causes of their choice, and nonprofits that are late in the mobile game can potentially benefit from several mobile application platforms.

One great example is Instead, a mobile app that inspires citizens to make philanthropic choices in their everyday lives. Encouraging people to “live below their means to give more,” Instead provides a platform for people to make less expensive (often healthier) choices – and donate the difference to charity.

For example, a couple could decide to forgo the movie theater on a Saturday night, stay in and use Redbox, and donate the difference. It’s a more sophisticated version of donating what you would spend on a cup of coffee to charity, with a high-tech facilitator. Overall, Instead aims to change the daily habits of consumers, and instigate microphilanthropy. The application is available on iTunes, and nonprofits can suggest their organization for inclusion here.

A second application, Reward Volunteers, makes it easy for nonprofits to, as the name of the app suggests, reward their volunteers. Developed by tech startup Chalo, Reward Volunteers provides a social platform where volunteers can log their volunteer hours and tasks, unlocking gifts along the way. Prizes include cash, food baskets, and even vacation packages.

While this application creates great incentives for citizens to volunteer for organizations they care about, the Reward Volunteers program is limited, only running through July 7, 2012. However, hopefully applications such as Reward Volunteers and Instead will inspire a new era of mobile technology – one that inherently seeks to give back to community organizations through innovation.

Photo courtesy JD Hancock

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