The concept is simple: give the 280 million American wireless users a single “Mobile Philanthropic Channel” over which they can make donations, and receive and respond to timely information, action alerts and appeals from nonprofits working on the issues they care about. Specifically, the MGF is the organizational element that permits charitable giving over the networks of US wireless carriers. MGF operational responsibilities include developing and managing carrier standards for participation; ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations concerning charitable giving; certifying the participation of nonprofit organizations and their campaigns; managing billing solutions across all carriers; acting as a billing settlement and records clearinghouse between carriers and participating charities; issuing donor receipts; conducting research on optimizing mobile giving campaigns; and, increasing awareness among donors about the “Mobile Philanthropic Channel.”
The MGF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization registered in all states to undertake charitable solicitations. We support numerous wireless operators (Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, US Cellular among others) that reach over 95% of US wireless customers. 100% of a donor’s gift is sent to the recipient charity. As of December 2009, we support almost 400 nonprofits running more than 800 mobile giving campaigns.
The Mobile Philanthropic Channel—
Empowering Individuals and the Nonprofit Organizations They Support
Given the almost total saturation of the US population by wireless devices (280 million subscribers), and the exponential rise of text messaging (used by 68% of 18-24 year-olds, 37% of 35-44 year-olds and 14% of those over 65), it is easy to see how the development of a “Mobile Philanthropic Channel” has the potential to vastly increase the pool of charitable donors and community activists. Furthermore, wireless devices are playing an increasing role in financial transactions and communication. It is a critical moment for nonprofit organizations to use this new tool to build the country’s next generation of givers and advocates.
The greatest attribute of mobile giving is its immediacy. Alerted to a need either through a message received on a mobile device or through an outside medium such as television or radio, mobile users can quickly and easily respond. No need to write a check, fill out a form or call someone—just send a text message in reply and the giving or participation cycle is complete. The time period from notification to contribution or action can be seconds rather than days, weeks or months with the contribution appearing on the donor’s phone bill. This immediacy and ease of use empower nonprofit organizations to develop interactive applications that will engage a new class of constituents. By providing one access point to all carriers, MGF gives nonprofit organizations the power to take best advantage of wireless ubiquity without complexity.
An exciting part of using mobile technology lies in its ability to share critical information about key community issues through text messaging with donors and stakeholders, as well as its potential to increase the pool of donors. Nonprofits do not have to develop the in-house infrastructure and technological expertise to facilitate mobile communications and fundraising—MGF and our approved ASPs provide those platforms and services to the nonprofit community, lowering the barrier to implementation so that mobile philanthropy becomes a viable option for reputable nonprofit organizations of any size.
The Demonstrated Success of Mobile Giving Campaigns
To demonstrate the viability of mobile giving, United Way and their ASP, enabled by the MGF, combined to create a campaign to fight childhood obesity. During the February 2008 Super Bowl game in Arizona, United Way aired a single, 10-second spot that encouraged viewers to donate to the campaign by simply sending a text message indicating their willingness to make a $5 contribution to this worthy cause. Impressed by the immediate response of 2,000 donors, United Way declared the campaign to be “profoundly successful” and is now working with the MGF and various ASPs to expand its use of the Mobile Philanthropy Channel.
In addition, nearly 400 major national charitable organizations have now registered with MGF to launch over 800 mobile giving programs at either a $5 or $10 donation price point. We have seen particiaption rates range from 1.5% to over 18% depending upon the cause, call to action, cross platform integration strategy, and other variables. Mobile often outpaces on-line donor acquisition by a 3:1 factor. It is also clear that mobile giving represents purely incremental gifts predominately by a new, younger demographic. Donor canibalization doesn’t occur.