Is Apple Giving It Away?


When it came to giving, philanthropy was never at the top of the late Steve Jobs' list.

In his recently published official biography, author Walter Isaacson wrote how Jobs disdained those who tried to make public displays of philanthropy or think they can "reinvent it." He had started a philanthropic foundation in the '80s, only to have the person he put in charge bring up "venture" philanthropy and discuss how to "leverage" giving. Instead, he was more focused on building Apple (NAS: AAPL) , and how the company's technology could benefit nonprofits and charities.

When Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) founder Bill Gates started the Giving Pledge to get America's wealthiest to donate the majority of their fortunes, Jobs declined to sign up. Meanwhile, many of the country's richest joined, including Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and activist investor Carl Icahn.

U2 lead singer Bono rushed to defend Jobs after he got some negative press, pointing out that Apple was the largest contributor to (Product) RED's Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Bono is a co-founder of the initiative, and Apple's contributions, he said, topped "tens of millions of dollars."

Although it's possible that Jobs gave but was characteristically secretive about it, his actions may speak louder than words. One of the first things he did upon returning to Apple in 1997 was to abolish the company's philanthropic programs, in a move to cut costs and restore profitability. Even as Apple started to bank billions, Jobs never reinstated it.

Almost immediately following Jobs' resignation in late August, new CEO Tim Cook promptly brought back the company's charitable matching program. Announced in early September and starting Sept. 15, Apple now matches up to $10,000 of an employee's donations per year. It's one of the ways that Tim Cook has made Apple his own.

In less than two months, Apple has now raised more than $2.6 million for nonprofits, of which Apple is pitching in half, or $1.3 million. With its fiscal 2011 profit of $25.9 billion, Apple's bottom line won't even flinch. Even if Apple ends up giving away $10 million throughout the year, that money will hardly be missed, as it's practically a rounding error with overall results. More importantly, it will do a lot of good.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Oracle, and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Berkshire Hathaway, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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