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Mobile Giving Booming Despite Apple's Rules

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Apple has agitated the nonprofit world with guidelines restricting their applications' use of "one-click donate" buttons, but at least one company has figured out a way to circumvent those limits.

Nadanu Technologies has developed a platform for an iPhone-optimized giving app with a "donate" button that can be downloaded outside of the official App Store, exempting it from Apple's mobile-giving restrictions. Many of the charities and nonprofits using Nadanu's apps, from large organizations like the Salvation Army to tiny, lesser-known community organizations, reported an immediate uptick in mobile donations toward the end of the year and said they were able to reach a much younger donor base through the iPhone.

Eddie Zuchman, 28, opened one of those apps at the dinner table on Dec. 22 to make a one-time, $1,800 donation to Friendship Circle San Francisco, an organization that helps children with special needs. Zuchman runs a diet-delivery company, and he told HuffPost that since winter is always the best season for his business, he decided to donate on a whim.

"If I would have thought about it, I may not have given such a large amount of money over the phone, but we were sitting there, and we were in a good mood, and I just went ahead and sent it over," Zuchman said. "It was a good experience for me. If you make it easy for people to give, it helps everyone out."

Rabbi Peretz Mochkin, the development director of Friendship Circle San Francisco, said he signed on to use Nadanu's technology in order to reach a generation that simply isn't in touch with older ways of giving.

"In the old days, everyone had a charity box at home, and that's completely lost now. Most homes don't know what a charity box looks like," he said. "Because people can donate on their phones now, and it's available to them any time, we have a steady amount of 50-plus people using it for daily contributions or inspirational contributions, and almost 80 percent of those people weren't giving to us without it. And we have definitely seen a pickup in the demographic of young adults."

Last year's Haiti earthquake disaster marked a major turning point for mobile giving, as organizations like the Red Cross raked in between $30 million and $40 million over the phone, and app developers across the country seem to be taking notice. Nadanu CEO Getzy Fellig said the company saw a tremendous uptick of Dec. 31 donations through its apps on Facebook and iPhone, including one $10,000 iPhone donation to a New Jersey day school.

"The fact that people are actually pulling out their phones and making $10,000 donations is just nutty to me. We literally fell off our chairs when we saw that," Fellig said. "As we started to break down the end-of-year rush, we saw that there were tremendous amounts donated through Facebook, iPod Touch and iPhones."

The smallest donation made via iPhone was for $180, he said, adding, "The dollar amounts were just extraordinary."

Unfortunately for many app developers, while the mobile giving market is growing exponentially, Apple's guidelines prevent charities and nonprofits from simplifying the process with a one-click donation button tied to PayPal or a credit card. In order to donate to a charity using their iPhones, people have to click a button on an app that redirects them to a separate web page where they then have to type in their credit information on a tiny screen with a difficult-to-use keyboard.

The tech giant refuses to comment on this policy, but Jake Shapiro, executive director of Public Radio Exchange, told The New York Times that Apple is simply trying to avoid the extra headaches such direct donations are liable to bring. "One of Apple's major objections has been that if donations were to go through its payment mechanism, it would have to be in the business of managing and distributing funds and verifying charities as well," he said.

But by making it even one click more difficult for people to donate using their iPhones, Apple may be costing charities and nonprofits a lot of money, said Ken Berger, the president and CEO of Charity Navigator, a charity-watchdog organization.

"I think it's really a tragedy that Apple is taking such a hyper-cautious position, and they're using a justification of being so risk-averse that they're putting a damper on tens of millions of dollars in charitable giving," Berger said. "This past year was historic in terms of mobile giving, and it is going to only continue to exponentially grow. There's a lot of money involved here even without easy-to-use apps, so we really hope Apple will reconsider."