On January 9th, 2011, Vincent Stehle wrote an opinion article for the Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “Apple’s Disdain for Philanthropy is Rotten for Charities and Society“. The article discussed how Apple unfortunately does not allow non-profit organizations to accept donations through their apps. However, Apple has long allowed for-profit companies to accept payment for products and services via apps, so why the double standard?
Companies as large and as wealthy as Apple have a responsibility to give back to society. These days, it’s not enough for a company to just donate money to a cause. People want to know what else the company is doing to become a better corporate citizen. In other words, what can a company do to put public interests before its own?
Apple’s website lists its environmental impact statement, which includes its recycling program among other positive initiatives. That stuff is all fantastic. Really, it’s great. But in a global society where social media use has become a fundamental part of daily life for hundreds of millions of people, Apple is in a rare position to go one step further with its social impact: Apple gets to decide how apps function on its mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iTouch.
If iPhone users could open an app and press a button to donate money, imagine how quick and easy it would have been to donate (for example) to the Haiti relief efforts. Imagine how much more money could have been generated through the ease of using a mobile app! True, during the Haiti crisis, it was possible to donate to the Red Cross Haiti fund by sending a text message, but that system was set up only for the Red Cross, and it made sense because Haiti was in a state of emergency. Other non-profit organizations such as NPR rely on constant listener-support to sustain their programming. In NPR’s situation, a mobile app would make far more sense for supporters to use when donating: An app can provide more information about a cause or organization, and can allow users to customize their own donation amount.
Apple touts its mobile devices as technological platforms that simplify life. But the company’s lack of support for reputable non-profit organizations makes life more complicated for those who want to donate whilst on the go. If verification of non-profit organizations is Apple’s main concern (as Stehle cited in his article), there are established and trusted avenues Apple could take to regulate those organizations to prove legitimacy.
It’s time that Apple used their considerable power to help mobile device users donate to their favorite charities or non-profit organizations. Simply getting on board with what app-users want could generate some fantastic press for Apple, and perhaps demonstrate that the company’s interests extend beyond the “Apple” tree, to the rest of the orchard.