What is the Mobile Giving Foundation? (And Why You Don’t Need Them)

mgf-1The Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF) is a nonprofit organization that’s been around since August of 2007.

Started by former wireless industry executives, the MGF set out to change the way fundraising was done. They used their connections within the industry to make deals with the top mobile carriers in the country. They were an integral part in some of the most notable mobile fundraising campaigns of the past decade.

But it’s not 2007 anymore. Times have changed, and the innovations of the Mobile Giving Foundation have given way to newer, more streamlined ideas.

It is no longer necessary to have partnerships with mobile carriers, and your nonprofit doesn’t have to subject itself to a rigorous application process. There are no standards to be met, so no matter how large or small your nonprofit is, you can still take advantage of mobile fundraising.

To understand why the Mobile Giving Foundation is not a mandatory step to take anymore, it’s important to understand exactly what the MGF is and why they were founded in the first place.

So what is the Mobile Giving Foundation? And why don’t you need them to launch your mobile fundraiser?

To skip ahead to any questions you may have, just click on the corresponding links below:

#1. What is the Mobile Giving Foundation?
#2. Is the Mobile Giving Foundation a nonprofit organization?
#3. Who founded the Mobile Giving Foundation?
#4. Where are the headquarters of the Mobile Foundation?
#5. Which mobile carriers are current partners of the Mobile Giving Foundation?
#6. Why was the Mobile Giving Foundation started?
#7. How does the Mobile Giving Foundation Work for nonprofits?
#8. What does the Mobile Giving Foundation look like for donors?
#9. What are the Mobile Giving Foundation standards?
#10.What are the criticisms of the Mobile Giving Foundation?
#11. Why don’t you need the Mobile Giving Foundation?

You have questions, and we’ve got answers!

whatisMGF#1. What is the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF) is an organization that liaises between nonprofits, ASPs (Application Service Providers), and mobile carriers to allow nonprofits to raise money through mobile devices.

The MGF has contracts with a majority of the top mobile carriers in the US, as well as with 6 major ASPs. The ASPs are the companies that provide nonprofits with the actual technology to raise money through mobile. The mobile carriers are the ones that process the donations free of charge.

As a part of their process, they vet every nonprofit that wants to use their mobile fundraising channels. There is a set of strict standards that each organization has to adhere to in order to qualify for consideration.

They glean their funding from the ASPs that they sponsor. In addition to being funded by the ASPs that they partner with, the MGF also receives support from QUALCOMM, 1024 Wireless Services, Acta Wireless, Hook Mobile, Mobile Accord, and VeriSign.

What are some examples of ASPs that the Mobile Giving Foundation partners with?

  • Connect 2 Give
  • Give by Cell
  • Hipcricket
  • Mobile Commons
  • SUMOTEXT
  • Activistic

As well as vetting the nonprofits with which they work, the Mobile Giving Foundation also makes their ASPs submit applications and pass standards inspections.

The Mobile Giving Foundation’s contracts with the various mobile carriers allow them to offer nonprofits 90-95% of the proceeds from their own mobile fundraising campaigns. The mobile providers take none of the profit, and the MGF takes 5-10% of all donations.

In the past, the Mobile Giving Foundation has been one of the go-to organizations for nonprofits looking to launch mobile fundraisers.

Because of more recent developments, like those Snowball has made, jumping through the Mobile Giving Foundation’s hoops is no longer a necessary step for nonprofits that want to launch mobile fundraising campaigns.

Companies like Snowball make it possible for nonprofits to bypass all of the rigamarole that’s associated with the Mobile Giving Foundation.

MGFnonprofit#2. Is the Mobile Giving Foundation a Nonprofit Organization?

Yes. Since the Mobile Giving Foundation’s inception, they have reached 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.

They are also registered in all states to take in charitable donations.

Their primary objective as a nonprofit is to assist other nonprofits in raising money.

foundedby#3. Who Founded the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The MGF was actually founded by former wireless industry executives.

Chief among those executives was Jim Manis.

Before he got involved with mobile donations, Jim Manis co-founded m-Qube, which was then bought out by VeriSign, one of the companies that significantly contributes funds to the Mobile Giving Foundation.

In addition to cofounding both of these companies, Manis also served as the Global Chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association from 2003 to 2006.

Like most other nonprofit organizations, the Mobile Giving Foundation has a board of directors and an advisory board, comprising both former board members and other industry executives.

The founders of the organization are still integral in the overall operation of the organization.

HQ#4. Where are the Headquarters of the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The Mobile Giving Foundation’s headquarters are in Bellevue, Washington.

Because they partner with so many national organizations, they are registered in every state in the United States.

There is also a chapter of the Mobile Giving Foundation in Canada. They serve the same purpose; they just partner with Canadian charities, mobile phone carriers, and ASPs.

partners#5. Which Mobile Carriers are Current Partners of the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The Mobile Giving Foundation works with the following mobile phone service carriers:

  • Verizon Wireless
  • AT&T Mobility
  • Sprint
  • T-Mobile USA
  • US Cellular

They aim to expand to more mobile phone service providers in the future.

whystarted#6. Why was the Mobile Giving Foundation Started?

When the founders of the Mobile Giving Foundation came up with the concept for the organization, they imagined a future in which all people could access a single “Mobile Giving Channel” over which they could receive and respond to appeals from worthy causes.

Before the Mobile Giving Foundation came about, there wasn’t a way to regulate those transactions.

If a nonprofit wanted to launch a mobile fundraising campaign, they would simply have to seek out the mobile carriers themselves.

The carriers would end up taking up to half of the donations. “Generous” companies would only take 25% of all charitable donations.

But more often than not, nonprofits tended not to bother with mobile fundraising, and therefore, they lost out on raising significantly more money from mobile donors.

Another one of the original intents of the Mobile Giving Foundation was to help nonprofits reach a demographic that was previously untapped.

Most established nonprofits were able to solicit larger donations from committed supporters who were willing to sign $1,000-$100,000 checks.

But very few organizations were reaching out to the younger generation who were primed to text in $10 donations on a whim. Even though there were millions of them, waiting to be asked!

That’s where the Mobile Giving Foundation came in and allowed organizations to seek out those donations.

Unfortunately, due to restrictions and barriers to entry, the more established organizations were still the only ones who could afford (financially and otherwise) to get involved.

howdotheyhelp#7. How Does the Mobile Giving Foundation Work for Nonprofits?

There are several steps involved for a nonprofit looking to launch a mobile fundraising campaign through the Mobile Giving Foundation.

Here’s what it normally looks like for a nonprofit trying to get started with a mobile fundraiser through the MGF:

Step 1:  Your nonprofit applies to the Mobile Giving Foundation. You must meet at least 9 out of 11 of their mandatory and preferred standards.

Step 2:  If your nonprofit passes inspection, and the MGF accepts your application, you’re eligible to contact one of the several ASPs that the Mobile Giving Foundation approves.

Step 3:  Your nonprofit must hire one of the approved vendors for your mobile campaign’s execution.

Step 4:  You are assigned a shortcode, which you pay a large lump sum for. Often shortcodes cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

Step 5:  The MGF takes 10% of your charitable donations (5% if your nonprofit raises a significant enough amount).

Step 6:  Your nonprofit must now wait for the billing period to end before you can collect your donations. This can be anywhere from 30 days up to 3 months.

MGFlooklike#8. What Does the Mobile Giving Foundation Look Like for Donors?

The Mobile Giving Foundation has a directory of the nonprofits that they work with.

The organizations in the directory are listed alphabetically.

Next to each name is:

A keyword, such as CURE
A shortcode, such as 20222
A micro-donation amount, typically capped at $5 or $10

Of course, more typically, a donor would see an advertisement for their favorite nonprofit’s text-to-give campaign.

That donor would subsequently text the keyword (CURE or RESCUE or PREVENT) to the shortcode (90999 or 20222, you get the picture).

They would not have a choice in how much they wanted to give (outside of $5 or $10).

Typically, mobile carriers would also limit the number of times a donor could give to 3 times a month.

So, if a donor wanted to give more than $30 in a month via text message, they would be restricted.

The final step for a MGF text-to-give donor is to pay their phone bill at the end of the month (or whenever their individual bill is due).

Their charitable contributions would have automatically been added to their mobile phone bill.

This last step is the major reason that Mobile Giving Foundation’s mobile fundraisers don’t get processed as quickly as those processed by a next-generation provider like Snowball.

mgfstandards#9. What are the Mobile Giving Foundation Standards?

The Mobile Giving Foundation requires every nonprofit that uses their services to pass a certain set of standards.

Given the standards, the smaller and newer your nonprofit is, the less likely you are to be accepted by the MGF. This is not due to any targeted bias. It’s just one of the many challenges that a lot of smaller nonprofits face.

Even some larger, more established organizations may find themselves falling short.

In order to take advantage of the Mobile Giving Foundation’s services, your organization must meet the following standards:

  • You have to be deemed a “qualified nonprofit” by the Mobile Giving Foundation.
  • There are 8 mandatory standards and 3 additional “preferred” standards. Based on those standards, your nonprofit will be classified on a scale from m1 up to m5.
    • m1 nonprofits meet fewer than 4 of the total 11 standards.
    • m2 nonprofits adhere to 4 or more standards.
    • m3 nonprofits meet 6 or more of the standards.
    • m4 nonprofits adhere to 9 or more of the standards.
    • m5 nonprofits meet or exceed all 11 of the standards.

In order for a nonprofit to solicit donations through the MGF, the organization must qualify as an m4 or higher.

Mandatory Standards:

  • The organization shall be exempt from income tax under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
    a. Includes filing a 990 annually and reporting gross revenues of at least $500,000.
    b. If an organization is exempt from filing a 990 they must submit financial statements prepared by an                                               independent auditor or CPA with gross revenues of at least $500,000.
    c. BBB accredited charities are exempt from the revenue requirement.
  • The organization shall be registered as a soliciting charity in all states in which the solicitation will occur. In the event of multi-state solicitations, the NPO must be a registered as a soliciting charity in all states requiring registration, unless sponsored by a qualified 501(c)3 organization who is registered in all states requiring registration.
  • The organization shall be in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws including remaining current with all required filings (includes US Patriot Act Compliance).
  • The organization shall be in good standing in its state of incorporation and have been operational for at least 1 year.
  • The organization shall make only truthful representations to the public with respect to its fundraising, finances, operation and solicitations.
  • The organization shall have a well-defined mission statement and operate programs that work to efficiently achieve that mission.
  • The organization shall spend its funds in a prudent and transparent manner; with a fundraising efficiency no greater than 35%.
  • The organization shall accurately report its expenses and make such information, financial statements and annual reports openly available to the public.

Preferred Standards:

  • The organization shall have an elected and volunteer Board of Directors of at least 5 members that has at least 3 meetings each year.
  • The organization shall measure its effectiveness through assessment tools every two years.
  • The organization shall be accessible and responsive to the public and shall have a donor privacy policy that allows for donor opt-outs (This will need to be met by the time your Mobile Giving program is live).

As you can see, there are more than a few barriers for nonprofits that are less established.

MGFcriticism#10. What are the Criticisms of the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The Mobile Giving Foundation has admittedly done great things for the nonprofit industry. Even still, there are quite a few things they could be doing better.

Below are the top criticisms of the way the Mobile Giving Foundation conducts mobile fundraisers:

#1. Donations are capped.

One of the largest problems actually has to do with size (funnily enough).

When the MGF was founded, among the main reasons they wanted to open mobile fundraising up to nonprofits was in order to target demographics that only wanted to (or could only afford to) donate $5 at a time.

Thus, they came up with “micro-donations.” Micro-donations are essentially smaller donations.

A typical micro-donation is only about $5 or $10.

Even if a donor wanted to donate more than the prescribed amount to their nonprofit of choice, they would not be able to do so through text. They would have to donate through more traditional (less easily accessible) means.

#2. Standards are prohibitive to smaller nonprofits.

Although this was not their intent, the Mobile Giving Foundation made it incredibly hard for smaller nonprofits to have access to mobile fundraising technology.

One of their “preferred” standards suggests that an organization must have at least 5 members on their board and meet officially with said board at least 3 times a year. While it’s not unrealistic to meet 3 times in one year, it is a little unfair to necessitate that a board must comprise at least 5 people.

There are plenty of amazing nonprofits that do great work with just 3 members!

The Mobile Giving Foundation also suggests that a nonprofit that has been incorporated for less than a year is somehow not as capable of conducting a successful mobile fundraising campaign.

The truth is: any nonprofit of any size, and regardless of how long they’ve been around, should be able to conduct a mobile fundraising campaign.

#3. Donations are held for months.

Another inherent problem with the way the Mobile Giving Foundation collects and distributes donations is that it relies on mobile carriers.

The mobile providers don’t take a cut of the donations; they simply tack on the cost of the donation to the donors’ bills.

Therefore, the donations made cannot be processed until the donors pay their phone bills. This can take anywhere from 30 days all the way up to 90 days.

The delay in donations can mean a major delay in the shipment of supplies, the funding of special projects, and even the day-to-day operations of your nonprofit.

#4. Your nonprofit may have to share a shortcode.

Your nonprofit’s number should be your nonprofit’s number, right?

Wrong. With the Mobile Giving Foundation, it’s entirely possible that your nonprofit shares its shortcode (20222 or whatever it may be) with hundreds of other organizations.

This means that if your donors mistakenly text the wrong keyword to your shortcode, another organization could end up with your donor’s well-meaning contribution!

Your nonprofit doesn’t necessarily have to share its shortcode, but it’s highly likely that you would with a Mobile Giving Foundation campaign.

#5. You don’t have the freedom to use your own processes.

The Mobile Giving Foundation highly regulates everything.

This, of course, can be a very good thing. On the other hand, it can also be restrictive for nonprofits who are used to doing things their own way.

Chances are, if you’re a more established nonprofit (or even if you’re not), you probably have a process in place for dealing with credit card and debit card payments. You might even have your own payment processor.

The Mobile Giving Foundation would prefer that you use their ASPs’ payment processing platforms and forego your own processes.

For nonprofits who like to do things their own way (let’s face it: who doesn’t?), this kind of prohibition can be extremely limiting.

#11. Why Don’t You Need the Mobile Giving Foundation?

Just because a company or product has been established for a while (and they’ve arguably done an incredible job), it doesn’t mean that they remain the standard forever.

Can you imagine if people still drove Ford Model T’s?

Luckily, there’s a new model for how things are done in the mobile fundraising realm.

It’s called Snowball, and it’s changing the way mobile fundraising works for nonprofits and donors alike.

Say goodbye to arduous applications, suffocating standards, delayed donations, capped contributions, and shared shortcodes.

Snowball has no ties to the mobile phone service providers, so your nonprofit has access to donations almost immediately. They also don’t make nonprofits apply to take advantage of their services. You can get started really easily.  

There’s also no longer a need for a shortcode (or a keyword, for that matter). Your donors can text whatever they’d like to your nonprofit’s text-to-give number–as long as their text begins with the amount they’d like to donate.

For instance, if they’d like to give $130 via text, they’d just send your organization’s phone number a message saying, “130 give” or “130 donation,” and they’d receive an email confirmation! It’s as simple as that.

There’s also no donation cap, so your donors can feel free to give as much (or as little) as they’d like.


With Snowball, your nonprofit has access to mobile fundraising like never before.

Reach more donors on the go. Right here. Right now.

For more fundraising resources, read these additional articles:

  • Text-to-Give Guide. Looking for more information on mobile fundraising? Check out our complete guide on text-to-give tools.
  • Free Fundraising Software Guide. Did you know your organization can find great free fundraising software? Before you buy any software, check out this list of free tools.
  • Church Fundraising IdeasIf your church is looking for more ways to raise money, we’ve got a list of over 101 ideas. Use these fundraisers along with your mobile fundraising to maximize your funds.
Mobile giving has never been easier with Snowball!

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