October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs and Philanthropy

Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder, was a polarizing figure in the nonprofit world.

While his chief business rival, Bill Gates, leads the world's largest foundation and has been a standard-bearer for the high-profile Giving Pledge, Mr. Jobs, who died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, rarely made his philanthropy or his views on giving a topic for public discussion.

He briefly ran the Steven P. Jobs Foundation—a grant-making organization he created in 1986 but later closed, The New York Times has reported. However, he did not sign the Giving Pledge nor did he ever make a public gift that appeared on The Chronicle's Philanthropy 50, an annual list of the largest charitable gifts.

Apple has also drawn some criticism for its philanthropy. It was not until this year that Apple announced a companywide giving plan to match employee donations to charity.  And it also drew attention for its decision to prevent nonprofits and other organizations from collecting donations on its popular iPhone.

Still, it is impossible to assess Mr. Jobs's philanthropic legacy without discussing how Apple's technology has changed the way nonprofits operate.

Devices like the iPhone and iPad have helped many organizations communicate more efficiently. They have allowed groups to improve the way they respond to disasters, communicate with supporters, and carry out their day-to-day work.

As we mark the death of Mr. Jobs, please share your thoughts on how he affected your organization. Post a comment below to discuss how his innovations have touched your work—or share your ideas on what his legacy might be for the nonprofit world.