Here’s another example of charities using iPhone Apps. This time it’s to raise funds.

It’s called A Real Tree and is a very simple idea. You buy the app for £0.59 in the UK ($0.99 in the USA) and the purchase price is used to plant a tree in one of twelve countries that suffer from serious levels of deforestation. The charities that benefit are Sustainable Harvest International and Trees for the Future.

Install and open the app and you’ll see a seedling spring to life and grow whilst bird song plays in the background. If you give the tree a poke, a little red bird flies around and if you shake your iPhone it causes a breeze to blow and blossom to float away in the wind. This short film explains more…

That might seem quite dull, but it’s the potential of the idea that excites me. At it’s heart, this app is a virtual gift (albeit one you buy for yourself). Whether it’s a goat for someone living in Malawi or dinner for a homeless youngster in the UK, we’ve seen a massive growth in this type of giving over the last few years. Many forward looking oragnisations such as ActionAid andFARM-Africa now offer more than simple cards and certificates – ActionAid sell interactive e-cards and FARM-Africa have personalised films on theirFARM-Africa Presents gift site.

The creative use of apps offers us another way to encourage giving, making the experience more engaging and more exciting to donors. From taking the simple tamagotchi style approach of caring for a goat through to a means of providing detailed feedback involving video clips, totalisers and maps showing people where and how they are making a difference, the iPhone is now offering us a new route to bring donors and charities closer together.

Thanks to @mashable for the tip.