Donation Ban Puts Jobs, Apple in Scrooge Role

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Steven P. Jobs was recently named (again) the awesomest CEO on the planet, but is it possible he could also be cast in the Scrooge role this Holiday Season?

On a day when 26 year-old It Boy Mark Zuckerberg is making headlines for pledging (along with Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz) to join the likes of former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates in giving the majority of his personal wealth to charity, a New York Times news piece recounts the difficulty non-profit organizations have encountered raising funds through in-app donations using iOS mobile apps.

It all leads one to ask: what does the 2nd largest company in the world have against charitable giving?

Mr. Jobs has been famously private about the extent of his personal philanthropy, which is certainly his right — what someone does with his or her money ought to be a private, personal matter. It will be interesting to see, however, what — if any — effect the Facebook founders’ commitment to The Giving Pledge will have on Apple’s CEO, whose name is thus far missing from a roster of corporate titans that includes Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, George Lucas and Ted Turner.

It would seem a no-brainer, on the other hand, to allow non-profit organizations that go to the trouble of building an iOS app to use the in-app purchase feature to raise funds from would-be donors — but Apple currently bars such transactions.

Presumably, the ban stems from the sticky question of how Apple would account for the 30% cut it takes on all in-app purchases, but an easy solution — and one which might even take some heat off of Mr. Jobs for his purported lack of philanthropy — would be for Apple to waive its cut on donations made to appropriately vetted organizations.

An accounting and administrative nightmare, you say? Not so, according to Clam Lorenz, vice president of operations at MissionFish, a company that did the administrative heavy lifting required to ensure donations received proper documentation and went to the right, properly vetted nonprofits in a joint venture with PayPal earlier this year. Within months of the feature appearing on PayPal’s iOS mobile app, Apple demanded its elimination.

“We proved it’s a solution that offers the user choice and flexibility and provides a dramatic cost benefit for nonprofits compared to what’s available in text-based giving,” Mr. Lorenz said.

Perhaps Steve Jobs and his company are simply so enmeshed in creating their “orgy of technological wonderments” to put dings in the Universe a coherent position vis a vis charitable giving is just beyond their ken.