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Apple Has It Partly Right: Nonprofits Should Be Vetted


Have you been paying attention to the recent brouhaha over Apple’s long-time decision to ban donations on the iPhone via nonprofit apps? The New York Times recently weighed in and quoted Jake Shapiro, executive director of Public Radio Exchange, an online nonprofit marketplace for licensing and distributing public radio programming, as saying, “One of Apple’s major objections has been that if donations were to go through its payment mechanism, it would have to be in the business of managing and distributing funds and verifying charities as well.”

We think Apple is right to be concerned about the importance of vetting nonprofits. Individual donors as well as professional grantmakers are very concerned that their contributions go to legitimate, legal nonprofit organizations and not bogus or non-deductable charities we often read about.

There’s no doubt that Apple’s ban has upset nonprofits and donors alike. Care2, a huge online community of people passionate about making a difference, has started a petition urging Apple to reconsider, and nonprofit social media guru Beth Kanter has pledged to switch her business from Apple’s iPhone to Google’s Android.

But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it. GuideStar has a long history of providing trustworthy, vetted data to a variety of institutions: Facebook Causes, giving portals, corporate programs, large private foundations, financial institutions, donor advised funds, United Way chapters, you name it – if you want to verify a nonprofit, we can do it.

Can Apple afford not to work with the philanthropic sector? When asked for comment, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Miller told us what she told The New York Times, “We are proud to have many applications on our App Store which accept charitable donations via their Web sites.” But how much philanthropic giving are they not supporting when donors are unable to give via their iPhone apps?

Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University estimate total charitable contributions from American individuals, corporations, and foundations at $303.75 billion in 2009, even despite a record-setting economic recession. And no longer are we seeing giving coming only from older and wealthier donors. Fundraising Success Magazine notes, “Historic philanthropy patterns of America’s affluent donors are giving way to a more complex and disparate population that represents our country’s patchwork communities. The systematic and predictable giving methods by the rich no longer dominate our donor bases. Diverse communities are emerging with new giving patterns and objectives.” iPhone apps are poised to tap into new donor bases if given that opportunity, particularly among the younger and minority demographics.

We’ve already seen this younger donor base in action: Network for Good’s new study points out that after the Haiti disaster, most giving was online and on mobile. A study conducted by Convio, Edge Research, and Sea Change Strategies, and published in March 2010 found that—a little more than a week to two weeks after Haiti’s deadly January earthquake—17 percent of donors who were ages 19 to 29 reported that they had sent a text message to make a gift and another 37 percent said they thought about making a text-message contribution. Among donors ages 30 to 45, 14 percent said they gave by text message and an additional 27 percent considered it. By contrast, only 3 percent of people ages 46 to 64 and 3 percent of people who are 65 or older reported sending a text contribution to relief efforts. And the results were astounding: just using text messaging capabilities, Americans donated the 30 million dollars in 10 days for Haitian relief efforts.

People want a way to help the causes they care about, and they want to be able to do it easily via their mobile devices. Apple is a leading platform of mobile apps. GuideStar is the premier source of vetting nonprofit information. I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Bob.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Bob Ottenhoff,  Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.

Topics: Fundraising Nonprofits Apple