Google App Makes Charity Social

One Today encourages users to give $1 a day to nonprofit organizations.
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Google is testing an Android app called One Today that encourages users to donate one dollar per day to selected nonprofit organizations.

One Today is being offered in a limited pilot test to Android users in the United States. Google says it's providing the app as part of its longstanding commitment to supporting nonprofits and "doing good." Would-be users are directed to request an invitation from the One Today website. However, the app is presently available to any Android user via Google Play. The One Today website allows BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone users to request an invitation, suggesting support for those mobile platforms is planned.

The One Today app presents users with information about a different nonprofit project every day. Users can donate $1 to the project if they choose. The app is designed to learn from users' choices: The projects it presents are based on the kinds of projects users have supported in the past.

Those wishing to donate more than $1 must do so via social networking. A user can challenge friends, via Google+ or Twitter, for example, to donate by offering to match each of their $1 donations, up to a limit based on past spending patterns. If the match amount total isn't met by the user's friends, One Today will present the user's matching funds offer to other people in the One Today community, until each dollar has been matched.

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The app's "give" button does not actually give anything, according to the One Today website. It records a pledge to donate. The app will periodically aggregate unpaid pledges and seek user approval to charge the user's credit card, via Google Wallet. Users can also elect to be billed via email and to pay on the Web. If the user decides not to fulfill a pledge, some of the app's features will be disabled until the balance is paid.

Unlike in-app billing or regular Google Play app sales, Google is not taking a 30% cut. The company says that nonprofits receive 98.1% of every dollar donated, with 1.9% going to cover credit card processing fees.

However, the amount the nonprofit receives may be less than that. Google has partnered with Network for Good to handle collection and disbursement of funds. Network for Good charges a 5% processing fee. Network for Good did not immediately respond to a request to confirm that the organization's normal fee applies to One Today. But if so, nonprofits would actually receive $0.93 of every dollar donated.

Potential donors then need to consider the percentage of donations that the nonprofit in question actually directs toward programs, since nonprofits all have administrative and overhead expenses. Among the popular nonprofits listed at Charity Navigator, most direct 75% or more of donations to their programs.

According to the Google, One Today donations will go to organizations' general operating funds, unless otherwise specified.

Update: After this story was filed, a spokeswoman for Network for Good said that the organization is not charging its usual 5% fee for donations through Google One Today.