December 3, 2010

Apple shows it’s a poor corporate citizen

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Petition challenges company’s nonprofit-unfriendly policy

Guest post by Beth Kanter
bethkanter.org

In June I wrote about how unfriendly Apple’s iPhone donation app policy was when I came across this editorial by Jake Shapiro, the CEO of PRX, (the company behind the popular This American Life iPhone and Public Radio Player apps), arguing that Apple’s policy that bars nonprofits from soliciting donations is a cop-out and blocks a major revenue stream for public radio (and other nonprofits) — whose content enhances the value of Apple’s devices.

Under Apple’s policy, your donation to your favorite nonprofit on an iPhone means Apple gets a 30% cut.

His analysis looked at Apple’s flimsy excuses for their  policy of prohibiting donations. Jake examines possible solutions to the problem – like in-app donations – which unfortunately would mean that Apple would take a 30% cut! Finally, he examines Apple’s lack of generosity as a failure of being a good corporate citizen. Jake suggests that given Apple’s hardball stance with tech partners, nonprofits and public media would have a slim chance of reversing the decision.

In August, when PayPal added a donation feature that allowed users to make charitable contributions from within the service’s iPhone app, it appeared that Apple might have listened.   Unfortunately, in late October, Apple made them pull the plug with no warning and little explanation. You can read about it in this post at Gizmodo.

I love my iPhone, but I don’t want to support a company that is so nonprofit-unfriendly. Since none of these in-App donation challenges apply to the Android – as soon as my contract is up, I’m getting an Android. But, since I have a few more months on my contract,  I’ve left a comment on this post asking Apple to reconsider its policy. 

If you would like to have the ability to make in-app donations through iPhones without hefty fees or hassle, please send Steve Jobs a message now by signing this online petition.

Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica. Republished from bethkanter.org. Image copyright 2010 artstechnica.

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  • iPhone apps as a "major revenue stream" really? I doubt it. If a consumer really wants to make a donation I'm sure there are plenty of available avenues. Don't expect the "walled garden" to give in on this one.

    • jdlasica

      I hope you're wrong, jayray. Tens of millions of people spend a ton of time with their iPhones. Let's hope it's not ALL spent in the pursuit of entertainment and frivolity.

  • kegill

    Beth, I agree that non-profits should be able to have an easy-to-donate feature on apps.

    But the petition overstates the problem by saying that "Apple won't allow you to make a donation to your favorite nonprofit using an iPhone". This is not true. I use my iPhone to make *text* donations to lots of NFPs.

  • Kathy: Yes, it is a nuanced issue – we're talking about getting them to allow in-app donations or one-click. You can pop out to the web through a html5 app – but only the most committed donors will do that. If you believe that smart phone giving is impulse giving – then it is essential to have in-app giving. Read the Chronicle's take on it http://philanthropy.com/blogs/prospecting/fund-ra

  • Jay – I hope you are wrong too – but we don't stop agitating .. then they'll get away with it.

  • I appreciate your insight on this Beth and I love Jay's expression of the "walled garden" as it truly fits. Apple is truly only beholden to shareholders and social responsibility remains a choice for companies and they can define it any way they choose. Agitating will bring some awareness (mostly to the choir), however Apple will not likely listen until consumers stop waiting in line for their next product release. Impulse giving can be effective for broad campaigns, however as we know those are only baby steps in the relationship building process for significant gifts and commitments to our causes. For the time being we are relegated to donating and receiving donations with our droids and reading the Wall Street Journal on our i-pads which is clearly the way Apple wants it.

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