December 03, 2010

Fund Raisers Petition Apple to Make It Easier to Donate on iPhones

Apple's policy of not allowing charitable donations to be easily made on the iPhone is raising the ire of some nonprofit leaders. Now a new petition urges the technology giant to make it easier for anyone to give on a smartphone. So far, about 250 people have signed the electronic petition.

The kerfuffle erupted after Apple reversed its decision to approve an application that would make it easier for people to support charity through their phones. For two months, people with iPhones could easily donate to a charity of their choice, using an application designed by PayPal. And then, they couldn't.

PayPal had installed the feature in August but pulled the plug in late October at Apple's "request," which came with no explanation, according to an article on the blog Gizmodo entitled "Why Does Apple Make Donation Apps So Hard?" The app had raised more than $10,000, with average donations of $12. It was a two-click operation since people who used the application already had their payment methods on file with PayPal.

Without such an application, donating on an iPhone can require many steps. It allows applications to encourage donations but requires a donate button that redirects people to a charity or other organization's Web page to complete their contributions. Donors usually have to type in their credit-card information, which can be an onerous task with the tiny iPhone keypad and screen.

Apple's policy "is making it harder for people to give on their iPhone," says Clam Lorenz, vice president of operations of MissionFish, a fund-raising organization that worked with PayPal to build its iPhone donation application. "The consequence is folks that want to give aren't going to do it because of the user experience."

More important, he asks: "Why was it okay for two months? And now, not?"

At a time when charities are increasingly betting on cellphone giving's potential to raise substantial sums, Apple's views on charity fund raising have incensed many people in the nonprofit world.

Apple could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts.

Beth Kanter, an author and social-media consultant, wrote on her blog: "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."

She has asked Apple to reconsider its policy and urged readers to sign the online petition, which has a goal of attract 5,000 signatures.

Let us know what you think about the policy by adding your comments below this post.