Sarah Schacht

Sarah Schacht

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What gives, Apple?

December 5, 2010 , , , ,


I’ve been interested to see that Beth Kanter and Amy Sample Ward have taken up a petition to encourage Apple to make charitable-giving apps easier to develop and launch on the iPhone.  Frankly, the social and civic-minded world is way overdue in pressing Apple to be a good corporate citizen.

You’d think that a company with sales of $65 Billion and profits of $14 Billion would have some wiggle-room in the budget for charitable giving, or donating products to nonprofits.  Yet Apple is notoriously miserly, as I mentioned in a Seattle PI article where I was featured as the “Geek of the Week.” In 2006, Wired picked up on the story, noting that Steve Jobs failed to show up on any listing of philanthropic giving.  As I noted in the Seattle PI, Microsoft is the largest corporate giver in the world, which makes is all the more unfortunate that Apple has just surpassed Microsoft in corporate value.

“…Wall Street valued Apple at $222.12 billion and Microsoft at $219.18 billion. The only American company valued higher is Exxon Mobil, with a market capitalization of $278.64 billion.” -The New York Times, May 26th, 2010.

Think about that. The only American company with a higher market capitalization than Apple is Exxon Mobil. Exxon.  And you know what Exxon’s charitable giving for 2009 was?  “$235 Million in combined corporate giving in the form of cash, goods, and services worldwide.”

Which makes me wonder… Microsoft, often seen as the villain of the software world, and Exxon, seen as a villain of the environment, give real money to make a real impact in communities here at home and globally.  While Exxon has an image (and environment) to clean up, what’s Microsoft’s win? Most technology consumers don’t realize Microsoft is the largest corporate giver—it surely isn’t a factor in why people buy Microsoft.  Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, talks all the time about the responsibility to give back.  Yet Apple’s corporate persona makes us think that because Apple is likeable and it seems like a good company, that it must be doing good works in the community, too, right?

Apple’s commercials are fun, exciting, and sleek.  Genius Bar staffers are nice, helpful, and save us from a painful hardware problem.  My last memory of owning a Microsoft product (other than Office), is of my senior thesis being eaten by computer virus and my Toshiba laptop self-destructing. No wonder I camped out overnight for the iPhone 3g.

But there comes a point when great marketing doesn’t make up for poor corporate citizenship.  I think we’re point, where more and more Apple consumers are waking up and realizing that the Apple-produced gifts they’re giving this holiday season are not giving back–at all–to the struggling communities across America.

While I don’t think Americans will toss their iPads out in defiance, I do hope that the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, and Apple’s cult of followers, will put the squeeze on Apple (in a campaign I’m hoping someone figures out a clever acronym spelling”CIDER”) to become a good corporate citizen on par with Microsoft.

In early 2009, I attended the Google Inaugural Ball, a guy asked me to dance. The guy happened to be the government relations and charitable affairs director for Apple.  I took the opportunity, over several dances, to ask him why Apple didn’t give charitably.  He remarked that it wasn’t in the organization’s culture and that Steve Jobs had been burned by charitable giving in the past.  Apple had donated iPods to fire victims in a 2008 Southern California fire, and gives donations and discounts to schools (which help spread the brand), but they don’t really give to charities.  Your charity can apply, and you may get a response. But they don’t respond often.  It’s just not in their culture.

Well, Apple is in our culture. And it’s about time that we show them what our culture values. It’s time that Apple gives back in a meaningful way in this challenging time in our nation’s history.

It’s time for Apple to think different—and think beyond itself.







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One could say (or at lease infer) that ExxonMobil and Microsoft give so much to help clean up the messes they respectively create. But this is highly-reductive, even if somewhat smugly satisfying.

Having just landed out of Dreamforce, where the giving model is considered part of the corporate culture (even if there are parts to it that I don’t agree with), for Apple to say that giving isn’t “part of its culture” smacks of arrogance and falls tone-deaf to the actual and technological needs of people. Giving iPods to fire victims sounds *nice* but if Apple were to repeat the same for every cholera victim in Haiti it would be a public-relations disaster.

So part of what you’re also taking on here is the general consumerist cool culture and cult of personality Apple (and Steve Jobs, in specific) has built. The problem is bigger than Apple, but there’s a strong positive feedback cycle between the two. And you’re right to highlight that other companies (Microsoft,, ExxonMobil) find ways to give back that are outside this cycle.

As for the CIDER, how about:

Donating is your

Tracy Kronzak

December 14, 2010

Thanks for covering this important issue. I’m ditching my iPhone …

Beth Kanter

December 14, 2010

3 notes

  1. Can Nonprofits Revolt? « NonProfit Beginnings reblogged this and added:

    […] Schacht has a wonderful post about the “miserly” ways of Apple. And reports are pouring in that Facebook CEO Mark […]

  2. Apple’s Lack Of Charity Still Squeezed In Blogosphere | MKCREATIVE: Marketing by Design reblogged this and added:

    […] seemingly out-of-touch ‘culture’ can be found in Sarah Schacht’s blog. She has even spoken with a ‘charitable affairs’ director at Apple, who made it pretty clear that charity is not […]

  3. Philanthropy: Apple's Lack Of Charity Still Squeezed In Blogosphere | Nonprofit Consultants reblogged this and added:

    […] seemingly out-of-touch ‘culture’ can be found in Sarah Schacht’s blog. She has even spoken with a ‘charitable affairs’ director at Apple, who made it pretty clear that charity is not […]

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