Mobile Giving. Fundraising the SMS way!

I’ve recently been in discussions with a number of not-for-profits, who weren’t aware of the fact that they could use mobile for fundraising.

Red Cross raised million for Japan from text donations.

With organizations like Yele and the Red Cross generating millions of dollars in response to the catastrophies in Haiti and Japan, it’s clear that mobile donations work.

Wyclef Jean's Yele organization raised $11 million for Haiti following the quake.

Being a self-styled mobile veteran, I take for granted the fact that some of the things that I know are not common knowledge.

Mobile Giving Foundation let's approved 501c3 organizations raise money through mobile.

The Mobile Giving Foundation is one such example.

MGF (in mobile parlance) is an organization that (and this is directly from their website) “was founded in 2007 by veterans of the wireless industry who wanted to harness the immense power of wireless communications to empower non-profit organizations. The concept was simple: give the 250 million American wireless users a single “Mobile Giving Channel” over which they could receive and respond to appeals from worthy causes.”

In layman’s terms, MGF gives not-for-profit companies the ability to accept donations from contributors who donate directly from their mobile devices.

Now, you must know, if you were to set up your own short code to have people give you money for your cause, the carriers would take anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of every dollar you raised.

And that’s after you’ve forked over $500 a month for a short code, at least $1,500 a month for a connection to a Tier 1 aggregator (that connects you to the majority of wireless carriers) and another, say $1,500 a month for the web interface (from an application service provider) that let’s you configure and manage your mobile giving campaign.

Whew! That’s a mouthful! And at about $3,500 a month, that’s also quite a hit on the pockets as well!

Mobile Giving Foundation makes the process of receiving mobile donations simple(r).

But with MGF, all that is eliminated.

To make the process of getting your not-for-profit hooked up with the ability to accept mobile donations, I’ve provided a little instructional to help you out.

1.  Determine whether your organization is qualified to accept mobile donations. Answer these three questions: (i) Are you a bonafide 501c3 organization” (ii) Did your company raise $500,000 in your last fiscal year? (iii) Is your company at least one (1) year old? If the answer to any one of these three questions is “No” stop here. You can’t accept mobile donations. But if you answered “yes” to all three questions (and even if you didn’t but are curious) keep reading.

2.  Determine which Application Service Provider (ASP) you want to use. The ASP is the middleman between the Mobile Giving Foundation and your organization. Select ASPs have been approved by the MGF to provide the platform and expertise to help not-for-profits set and an manage their mobile giving campaigns. You’ve got to sign a contract with an ASP before you’ll get the application for MGF to process. No ASP, no MGF. No MGF, no mobile donations. Each ASP charges a fee for the use of their platform, and each donation received. These fees are typically nominal, but it pays to shop around.

3.  Submit your application to MGF. Once you’ve selected your ASP, signed the contract, and completed the application with MGF, you’ve got to submit it to them to review and process. They’ll review your application, confirm your 501c3 status, examine your financial records, and ensure you comply with the balance of the criteria they’ve established for qualifying organizations. The process takes about two weeks, after which (if everything comes up roses) you’re eligible to begin accepting mobile donations.

Once you get MGF's seal of approval, you're set!

Once you are vetted by MGF you’ll be able to accept donations simply by having folks text your designated keyword to a short code. The carriers will collect the money and pay MGF, who will pay the ASP (after MGF takes their cut), and the ASP will pay you (after the ASP takes their cut).

Now the process I’ve outlined isn’t a walk in the park, but any stretch of the imagination. If you fail to meet even one of the criteria I’ve outlined, you will be rejected.

But for those organizations who satisfy this threshold, mobile giving is a way to increase both engagement (you can send messaging afterwards – as long as you disclose it to the donor prior to sending them messages) and revenues.

If you want to learn more, feel free to drop me a line or visit www.


Filed under branding, mobile, technology

4 responses to “Mobile Giving. Fundraising the SMS way!

  1. Emma

    Even with the reduced cost through a place like the Mobile Giving Foundation unless you are a major non-profit large amounts through mobile giving the cost isn’t a good deal for the organization. This is a great idea but the cost really limits what charties it can benefit from it.


    • Emma, you raise a very good point. Organizations like the Mobile Giving Foundation and mGive are not for small non-profits (the minimum fiscal receipts are $500,000), which I noted in my post. The reality is that the only organizations that can take advantage of mobile donations, aren’t actually doing so. How many mobile campaigns have you seen by large not-for-profit organizations recently? Small organizations (like your’s I presume) should look to affiliate with larger organizations as fiscal sponsors, in order to take advantage of mobile giving.


  2. Elizabeth Jumel

    Another organization that supports mobile donation campaigns is The mGive Foundation. They process 85 percent of all mobile donation transactions in the U.S. today. During the Haiti crisis, The mGive Foundation worked with the American Red Cross and others to facilitate the collection of more than $41 million in donations for victims within just a few weeks. Please let us know if you have any more questions about mobile giving. You can reach us through or call us at (888) 849-8863.


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