Charitable Donations and the iPhone: What the App, Man?

As the year draws to a close and there is the last, big push for donations by non-profits, who wouldn’t love a one-click, donation button in their app on the iPhone? Well, Apple apparently. There has been some buzz lately over Apple’s policy towards charitable giving on the iPhone.

Photo from PC World
Photo from PC World

Apple’s policy is that charitable donations cannot take place within an app or through Apple’s app store. If users wish to make a donation, they have to be directed out of the app, through their web browser and may have to contribute additional information. While this may not seem like a huge deal, it does kind of ruin that wonderful impulse that a nice, big red “DONATE NOW” button would have.

So why hate on the big, red button? The answer from Apple has been that they do not want to be responsible for the charitable funds reaching their final destination. But as Jake Shapiro pointed out in a blog post on ars technica:

The excuse that “Apple doesn't want to be held responsible for ensuring that the charitable funds make it to the final destination” is a cop-out. Google Grants has tackled this already, and organizations like TechSoup and Guidestar do a sophisticated job of authenticating nonprofits and charities worldwide.

The  real reason may be that charitable donations are just of no interest to Apple. Apple receives 30 cents for every dollar spent in their app store and with a charitable donation, would only be able to claim a processing fee.

While companies like Google and Microsoft have been quick to point out that these problems do not exist with their mobile software, I don’t think this is about finding the one mobile software that perfectly serves the non-profit community. This current stink with Apple more clearly shows the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket when it comes to developing an organization’s mobile strategy. If you want to voice your displeasure with Apple's policy, an online petition has been started over at care2 and it will be very interesting to see if and how Apple responds.