Military Benefits

Consumer Watch: App might make charitable contributions easier

Amid the craziness of shopping, decorating and other preparations for the holiday season, our minds also turn to charity contributions.

If you lean toward military and veterans charities, there's a new app to help you.

Veterans Call lets you set up a recurring donation of $5 or $10 a month that's automatically added to your cellphone bill. There's no requirement to use a credit card, and the donation can be stopped or changed at any time.

The app is free; it is available for download at Google Play and iTunes. There is no fee to donate, and no recurring fees.

"We're very excited," said Dave Winters, president of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, one of the six  charities currently featured on the app. "This is a type of communication with an audience we may not reach. A lot of millennials live on their phones. We have a substantial donor base, but we want to reach potential new ones. We see this as a great opportunity to reach a new group."

While many younger donors want to give to charity, they don't always respond to direct mail or email entreaties, said Dylan Breslin-Barnhart, vice president of business development for Veterans Call.

Not all of a donation goes to charity; 15 percent of each donation goes to the company Veterans Call, for expenses. So if you donated $100 over a year, for example, $85 of that would go to charity.

Of course, donors who prefer that all their donations go to charities are free to give directly to those organizations; they have information on their websites about donating from a checking account at no extra expense to the donor or to the charity; or by credit card. When a charity receives credit card donations, it pays credit card company processing fees of around 2 percent, so about 98 percent of each donation goes directly to the charity.

Veterans Call is vetting charities before bringing them into the fold for this donation process. "We want philanthropies in this space that are well thought of," said Breslin-Barnhart. Six have signed up, but they hope to expand it to 10. Besides the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, the other nonprofits on the roster are the National Military Family Association, Armed Services YMCA-San Diego chapter, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home for Children.

You can download the app from Google Play and iTunes.

A number of other fundraising campaigns are running this fall for military and veteran charities, including an ambitious project to raise $20 million for the Semper Fi Fund and America's Fund. The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation will match donations to those funds, up to $10 million, through Dec. 31, in its "10 Makes 20 Challenge."

The Semper Fi Fund was created by a group of Marine Corps spouses in 2004 to provide urgently needed resources and financial support to injured and critically ill Marines and their families. In 2012, those founders established America's Fund, which expands that support to injured and critically ill members of the other branches of service.

A variety of financial, emotional and other support is provided, ranging from family support, adaptive housing, adaptive transportation, and specialized equipment, to education and career transition help and rehabilitative sports programs.

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