Apple the Grinch bans charitable donations on iPhone apps

Is Apple the Grinch who Stole Christmas or perhaps Ebenezer Scrooge? The company has banned apps from the iPhone that allow people to give donations to charity. Why ban the donations? There's no way to know because Apple isn't talking.

The New York Times reports that many nonprofit groups have created iPhone apps, but Apple won't allow them to use those apps to receive charitable donations. The Times reports:

Organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium and American Cancer Society have them, but none can be used to make gifts. Prospective donors instead are directed out of a nonprofit's app and to its Web site, which the organizations say makes the process of contributing more cumbersome.

"When you're popped out of an app, you then have to go through a whole bunch of clicks to make a donation," said Beth Kanter, co-author of "The Networked Nonprofit" and chief executive of Zoetica, a consulting firm. "It's cumbersome and it doesn't have to be."

Why does Apple ban the charitable donations? Only Apple knows, and it's not talking. The Times reports:

An Apple spokeswoman, Trudy Muller, declined to explain the rationale for banning charitable solicitations via apps, saying only, "We are proud to have many applications on our App Store which accept charitable donations via their Web sites."

The Times notes that Apple has allowed people to make charitable donations via iTunes, notably through the American Red Cross to aid victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Apple even joined in asking people to make donations.

The Times goes on to speculate that the issue for Apple about making charitable donations via iPhone apps may be money:

Apple takes a 30 percent slice of purchases made from the App Store, an amount that would be frowned upon if it were to be taken out of a charitable donation.

Clearly, Apple is wrong here, and should rescind its decision, and we can hope that eventually it will. However, until then, those who want to give through charity via the ease of smartphone apps have another choice --- use Android. Kanter, for example, has announced that in protest she's giving up her iPhone and switching to an Android phone, because you can make charitable donations via Android.

And PayPal, which had rolled out a feature allowing people to give to charity via its iPhone app, only to have Apple ban it, is about to introduce an Android app that lets people give to charity.

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