If you're looking to donate to a good cause, there may be a smartphone app to help choose.
Potential donors in New Jersey and Washington state can already check out charities on their smartphones before they write checks. Other states are likely to follow, says Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
New Jersey's Office of the Attorney General unveiled its free charity smartphone application late last month. Washington released a similar application in December 2010. Would-be donors on both can learn an organization's total revenue, as well as how much of the donated money is spent on charitable programming, fundraising and management.
The New Jersey Charity Search application, currently available on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and planned for other smartphones, allows users to view the financial records of the 26,000 registered state charities and non-profits.
Since its launch, almost 700 people have downloaded the New Jersey app, said Casey Faiman, general manager of the New Jersey portal for NICUSA, a company that has built websites, online services and secure payment processing solutions for more than 3,500 federal, state and local government agencies.
Rebecca Sherrell, charities program manager in the Washington Office of the Secretary of State, did not have download totals for the Washington app, but she said the decision to provide it made sense for tech-savvy individuals.
Sherrell said she agrees it is likely that other states will begin to provide charities' cost breakdown on mobile devices. Rooney says that's because so many people now receive information from their smartphones.
"With new phones, people can find anything anywhere about anything," Rooney said.
Many charities, including The Salvation Army and United Way, offer free apps for smartphones but do not include financial information.
The Better Business Bureau's Standards for Charity Accountability recommend a charity dedicate at least 65% of its revenue to programming activities, with no more than 35% going to fundraising and administration. About 90% meet that standard, said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance.