Apptivism: Change with the Click of a Button

Many often think of hunger and poverty as something distant. When the topic comes to mind, many people think of pictures they receive in the mail of singular victim in another continent. People often struggle to relate to a problem so distant, inaccessible and unrelatable when they don't personally know anyone affected. But the perception of hunger and poverty as something distant and outside of this country is most certainly wrong.

Though there are many sides of the hunger problem from visibility to segregation, one aspect is not realizing what is right in front of us. A great example of attempting to address this is our CEO Andrew. He helped add a feature on GiftAMeal's map of restaurants on our app so users could see food pantries near them to help connect with the problem. Through this process, he realized that there was a food pantry that works with Operation Food Search right across the street from his apartment! The problem of hunger is everywhere, often even right across the street. Even if it is not across the street, it is likely somewhere you drive by often, whether that be by your church or next door to your favorite restaurant or bar.

However, lack of visibility isn’t the only problem. People also struggle to take action with their busy lives, and community engagement can be difficult. While I would encourage everyone to get involved through volunteering and to thoughtfully consider donating as much as they can, there is a growing trend of businesses that allow you to help in additional ways by doing things you already do, like dining out and exercising, just by using your phone. Many people refer to this trend as Apptivism.

There are a growing number of apps that allow you to personally help divert company's advertising and marketing dollars to charity by taking actions you already do. This has manifested itself in apps like Charity Miles where corporations sponsor runs and you can earn money for charity by exercising. I just used it the other day and quickly earned a dollar for Feeding America. While these amounts might seem small, I was already going for a run, and the cumulative impact can be huge.

These new apps help to avoid the common critique used against social media “clicktivism,” that social shares might raise awareness of an issue but do not necessarily directly help the cause. Personally, I think both are important, social pressure applied to companies can certainly help change their behavior, but research suggests that shares about charities and liking their pages often does not actually increase the likelihood of a donation. This isn't to say that social media is useless, just that it often isn't as effective for raising money as people might expect.

Now, raising a dollar every time you run 4 miles, or providing a meal (11 to 23 cents) every time to take a picture isn’t going to completely end hunger either or solve the root of the problem, but it can make a significant positive impact on many lives and every little bit helps.

In addition, there are apps that can help you drive personal behavior or work for societal change. An app called RoundUp rounds up your purchases to stow away money to donate to charity directly, and there are numerous apps that help make it easier to advocate for political changes to address problems like hunger and serious issues like poverty.

Volunteering at a food bank and setting aside money for charity (speaking of, some of our favorite international ones are GiveDirectly and Against Malaria Foundation) are amazing things to do, and research shows they make you happier than spending money or time on yourself. But if you're looking for a little something extra to do, that ties in with activities and rituals you already perform, downloading and using an app like Charity Miles or GiftAMeal can start making a small difference just doing something you already do!