Earlier this week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt's personal seed fund TomorrowVentures was part of a $3.35 million round of financing for mobile-gifting startup Giiv. Through Giiv, you can gift directly to friends and family through mobile phones. Your gift is sent to the recipient and redeemed at retailers all through the power of today's smart phones. Although this may be the next step in the increased consumer use of smart phones, the same powerful technology is capable of being more than just another way to spend money. 

All-too ubiquitous, mobile phones are our connection to the rest of the world; now, they are becoming an important force to change it. New services and applications are allowing smart phone users to create positive change through their phones.  Sparked by the outpouring of text-messaged $10 "micro-giving" donations after the Haitian earthquake disaster, non-profits and smart phone users are now experimenting with another way people can change the world through their mobile phone: micro-volunteering.

The iPhone app "The Extraordinaires " allows users to perform volunteer tasks for various organizations, anywhere, through their phone. You could wait for the bus and tag pictures for the Smithsonian archives. In line at the D.M.V? How about you help organize the Library of Congress from your phone. Through the power of "skills-based micro-volunteering", The Extraordinaires have helped over 200 organizations fulfill 300,000 tasks. After recently bringing in $1.135 million in funding, The Extraordinaries is looking to be a big player in the continuing re-imagining of both how people use their phones and how they spend their time volunteering.

Another aspect of the micro-volunteering movement is the GiveWork app, developed by Samasource and Crowdflower . This revolutionary application allows ordinary smart-phone users to assist in training workers in the world's largest refugee site, Dabaab, Kenya. Micro-volunteers work with refugees through the app, performing basic tasks such as classifying a website for a database, judging search results or scanning tweets for "sentiment". Although some of the tasks might not seem to be the most helpful to a refugee in North Eastern Kenya, each task earns points for the user of the app, and income for the refugees. Performing one task earns enough for a banana, a tomato and some greens; 100 tasks completed could earn 1 week's access to e-mail.

While BeExtra.org's micro-volunteering efforts are quick, easy and effective, it doesn't quite have the same person-to-person touch as the opportunities with GiveWork. However, the tasks that GiveWork assigns to refugees in an impoverished area can seem unnecessary and only indirectly helpful to the people the app is trying to help. In the larger spectrum, however, both of these organizations are making the most of both the incredible power and total inescapability of the modern phone-not to make money, but to better the lives of everyone, the world over.