Looks Like Philanthropy Wasn't One of Apple's New Years Resolutions | Beth's Blog

Looks Like Philanthropy Wasn’t One of Apple’s New Years Resolutions


Click to Sign Online Petition and Send Steve Jobs A Message

Since December, over 12,000 people  have signed an online petition to urge Steve Jobs to change Apple’s unfriendly  iPhone donation policy.   Yesterday,  Vincent Stehle, in his column in the Chronicle of Philanthropy took Apple to task for its poor corporate citizen record, compared to the generosity of its competitors like Google, Microsoft,  Adobe, and others.   On the other side of the Atlantic,  Nick Hurd,  Civil Society Minister in the UK, has announced that he will write Apple to encourage the company to be more positive.

These recent high profile voices are the latest to join a chorus of dissatisfaction with Apple’s iPhone donation policy.   Since early December, the issue has been covered on over 60 nonprofit and philanthropy blogs, technology blogs and press, and news publications, including The New York TimesHuffington Post, The Guardian, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Quarterly, Cause Marketing Forum, and Foundation Center.  The outcry was not limited to the social sector industry in US and UK, complaints came in from Australia and  Canada.

Apple has said that it does not permit charitable donations to be made through its iPhone applications because it has no way to vet nonprofits.   There are respected nonprofits that do this, including  Mission Fish, Network for Good, and TechSoup.  On top of that,  Bob Ottenhoff, president of GuideStar, the organization that vets nonprofits, has gone so far as to offer his organization’s services to Apple.

While Apple may not be paying attention, its competitors  are.  Both Google and Microsoft sent me the last versions of their phones to replace the iPhone I ditched in protest.

I wonder if Steve Jobs will respond to the UK Civil Society Minister, Nick Hurd, about why his company won’t let nonprofits easily collect cash through their iPhone apps?   As the TechEye blog pointed out, the response might look something like this:

“Because I said so.
From my iPad
Steve Jobs.”

To date, there has been no official response from Apple.

Vincent Stehle’s column in the Chronicle of Philanthropy raises a good question:  What responsibility does a major technology company like Apple have to the nonprofit world?

Apple’s fans say that its contribution to society is to provide tools that spark creative genius and serve as a powerful innovator.  But, as Vince points out,  other technology companies have found ways to promote innovation and help nonprofits.

Ten years ago, Microsoft and America Online came together to support the creation of the Nonprofit Technology Network.   Recently, Google has announced a grant of $1.1-million, designed to support the NTEN’s programs over the next two years.  And in-kind technology donations from  Adobe, Cisco, Microsoft, and Symantec are just a few of the 44 companies that have together donated more than $2.1-billion worth of products through TechSoup Global.

As more nonprofits look to the promise and potential of mobile contributions and the iPhone becomes available on Verizon, the donation policy will become more pressing.  Meanwhile,  I’ll have some reports about the Google Phone/Nexus S with Android operating system and the Windows 7 phone – and explore the best practices for mobile strategies.

15 Responses

  1. Steve W, Indialantic FL says:

    WE MUST HAVE A WAY to to donate via iPhone, as there are not enough ways already. Payroll deductions, tithing, direct debit, telethons, telemarketing, etc. are just not enough.

    Come on, Apple. Get with the program. Your “Apples for Schools” program is so 20th Century.

  2. patrickdh says:

    I was recently reading about Domino’s iPhone App success turning out to be a dream for the pizza company – quite contradictory after reading this post. It very well maybe that nonprofits will be forced sell before apple gets donations going.
    If ecommerce is doing it successfully, apple may not be the only loser here during the waiting game.

  3. AdamC says:

    Seriously, do you need an app for that.

    There is a choice but the more important part is the heart. If a person wants to donate he or she doesn’t need an app to do it.

    Will the writer gets off her high horse and stop thrashing Apple.

    Btw how much have you donated lately?

  4. Chiara says:

    @AdamC – I would firstly like to defend Beth Kanter’s work – I have never found her preaching from a high horse, as you suggest. Her work is fundamental to the development of online communications for non-profits and an excellent resource. I have been very grateful for her sharing of knowledge and wisdom.

    Secondly – yes, I do believe there needs to be an app for that. People lead very busy lives and anything that facilitates charitable giving can only be a good thing – why do you think retailers are investing so much in e-commerce and apps? Because people buy more. With an app, people would give more. Unless you believe charity is not valid for political or ideological reasons (which you are entirely entitled to do), I can not see why you oppose this. I understand that validation would be a substantial and complex undertaking, but a bit of CSR never went amiss.

    Finally – I give regularly to several charities.

  5. This is an experience of Apple’s rejection in Korea.

  6. Brian says:


    Let me start off by saying I think that you and your work and advocacy are fantastic. That said I think you are really off target with the Apple app petition.

    What’s NOT happening right now? The problem that I see is that you are asking Apple to facilitate but not addressing the potential new fraud vector that this opens up. If Apple were to suddenly support charitable giving via an iPhone app who would vet the legitimacy of the organizations? Should Apple take that on as part of the app approval process? Others have volunteered to do this but if they get it wrong that reflects first on Apple – not the other party vetting those organizations.

    What’s missing is a broader discussion about how to take philanthropy into highly mobile environments in the 21st century. MS and the Droid folks should participate also; as well as the financial companies and not for profits.

    Petitioning Apple doesn’t seem to be drawing them into the conversation.



  7. […] been an ongoing debate and petition to Apple to allow non-profits to collect donations from mobile apps. Apple maintains […]

  8. […] apps on the iPhone. Since then, the voice of the sector has gained strength with Zoetica CEO Beth Kanter continuing to sound off and circulate a petition of more than 13,000 signatures to oppose  Apple. […]

  9. What if an iphone app simply directed its users to a mobile website hosted by the non-profit where donations could easily be made.

    In other words, use the app to send users right to your website.

    A mobile application for donations would be handy for accepting credit cards, and could also prompt someone to sign-up for a newsletter.

  10. […] is going on for Android (this piece by A VC, Fred Wilson is a good overview), and also the well-known resistance to donation apps mandated by the iTunes […]

  11. […] Kanter, a nonprofit blogger, posted a blog earlier this year titled, “Looks Like Philanthropy Wasn’t One of Apple’s New Years Resolutions.”She wrote, “Apple has said that it does not permit charitable donations to be made […]

  12. Sue Zak says:

    Truly challenging
    thank you, It is my opinion your trusty visitors could perhaps want a whole lot more posts like this keep up the great effort.

  13. Hey Beth – any updates on this by chance? Doing some research and I’m having a hard time finding any updates since the original NYT article. Thanks!

  14. Beth Kanter says:

    Josh: over 40,000 signatures on the petition, but not a peep out of Apple.

  15. Yeah I signed the petition myself. Super lame. Thanks for the response. I’m hoping they change their mind about it one of these days.