Text AID to mGive

Technology is changing philanthropic giving. National and international charities, academic institutions, civic organizations, religious groups, state sponsored aid organizations, and individuals are embracing a wide array of technologies when making aid donations. The CGP’s 2011 Index notes examples of private giving orchestrated through new technological mediums. The “Haiti: Global Humanitarian Response” focus box in the Index points out how the the Red Cross “raised an unprecedented $32 million in $10 donations [for Haiti] via text message.”

The vociferous response to the Haiti earthquake from individuals making small contributions via text messaging was in large part afforded by the organization Mobile Accord. Following the earthquake “[a]t some points, text donations came in at a rate of $200,000 an hour.” Mobile Accord developed the the first mobile donation platform, mGive, in the U.S. in 2005. It provided a technology “tailored to nonprofit organizations” that aimed to engage donors  through small scale donations via text messages for aid assistance.

The founders of mGive, recognizing the need for accountability and transparency in this type of giving structure, established The mGive Foundation. The mGive Foundation is a 501c3 public charity.  It works to handle the vetting and approval process of all charitable organizations, which hope to utilize the technological platform developed by Mobile Accord. Thus far mGive has worked with over 500 charitable organizations on more than 7000 giving programs. The mGive platform currently supports 85% of the mobile giving market in the U.S.

Some of the campaigns that mGive has been part of include:


Mobile Accord has not only provided nonprofits and eager donors with a platform to easily deliver assistance, but they have also established a system of trust that allows the parties – aid providers and donors – to be confident that their contributions are reaching their intended purposes. The way it all works is that donors make a donation to a giving program through SMS short code, like “GlobalGiving: text JAPAN to 50555.” The $5 or $10 donation is then attached to the donor’s next phone bill.  When mGive was being established, the founders “negotiated agreements with wireless carriers so that they would pass on 100% of all donations and identify mobile donations as non-taxable items on the donor’s mobile bill”.

In addition to donors having the assurance of enforceable contracts that guarantee 100% of their donation going to the nonprofit of choice, mGive also adapted applications that allow donors to track the impact of their contributions.   The “mGive iPhone Application” and “mGive Mobile Giving Application” turn mobile devices into a  social media hubs giving donors access to their chosen organizations.  By linking donors to organizations’ web pages, this application enables donors to look for updates, video feeds, and information on how their contributions are being used.

Questions have been raised about the limitations of text message giving on contribution size. With SMS messages fixing the dollar amount donated for a campaign (i.e. $10 a text), there is concern that it may stifle the total amount that a contributor might otherwise have given. Kevin Flitchard, on Connected Planet, reported that “86% of SMS donors said they would still be inclined to give a larger donation to the same organization via more standard methods.” On the real upside however, this type of giving structure empowers a far greater number of individuals to participate in aid giving. There were over 3 million people  that sent $10 donations to the Red Cross via text message following the Haiti earth quake. Daniel Borochoff, of the American Philanthropy Institute, explained that “[w]hat’s good about [mobile giving] is it gets young people interested in giving“.

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