Mobile Giving: Fundraising through the Mobile Platform


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The idea of mobile giving or giving donations for charitable causes via the mobile platform is not new. For several years, many charitable organizations have been using the mobile platform as a way to seek donations for a variety of causes. Nonprofit news organizations can consider the mobile platform as another method for fundraising.

One of the most popular ways the mobile platform is used for donations is via the text message.

According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the mGive Foundation:

“Two thirds (64%) of American adults now use text messaging, and 9% have texted a charitable donation from their mobile phone.”

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, the Pew study found that people were fast to donate the same day and do so via the mobile device through text message:

“The vast majority of these donors (89%) heard about the Text to Haiti effort on television, and half (50%) made their contribution immediately upon learning about the campaign. An additional 23% donated on the same day they heard about it.”

According to Director of Nonprofit Strategy, Sean Milliken of eBay, Inc., in an article republished in Forbes, “Last year alone, PayPal processed over $3.6 billion in donations for charities globally, up 22% from the year before.”

Getting Started With Your Own Mobile Giving Campaign

As the mobile platform becomes more pervasive in daily life and as a tool for mobile giving, it can be considered another tool for nonprofit news organizations and their fundraising goals.

Before you begin a mobile giving campaign, you and your staff should address the following questions:

What kind of mobile giving campaign do you want to do?

Identifying the kind of campaign you want to launch will help you to figure out how the mobile platform can be incorporated whether you are doing an online campaign or a community event.

What is your goal?

Having a goal in mind will make your overall campaign easier to create and easier to set the necessary benchmarks to make the campaign successful.

Who is your target audience for the campaign?

It’s important to know whom you want to reach and how you can cater the campaign to that group.

Perhaps you want to focus on those individuals who follow a specific kind of news topic your organization covers such as arts and culture or the environment? Perhaps you want to focus on a certain demographic? Also, don’t forget that some of your audience may not have a mobile device nor use it for making donations. You don’t want to isolate a part of your audience so providing an alternative to those who still want to give but can’t use the mobile device, should also be a part of your overall campaign.

How does this campaign tie into your overall fundraising efforts?

The mobile giving campaign should not be separate from your overall mission. It should be integrated with your existing efforts to make it successful.

Do you have an upcoming community event you are hosting? Perhaps having a mobile credit card reader on hand at the event may be helpful in addition to having a special webpage or app for people to donate to.

What will your social media strategy be in conjunction with this effort?

In the same Pew study mentioned earlier, it was found that social media can play a significant role in mobile giving. People who see that their family and friends have donated to a cause and tell them about via social media channels may be more likely to give as well.

It’s important to know what social media channels you will use for your campaign and what your message will be on those channels. It's another important component to your overall campaign.

How long will it last – days, weeks, months or longer?

Some fundraising campaigns last only 24 hours others can last weeks. Again, this gets back to your overall fundraising efforts and identifying how your mobile giving campaign can fit within that same timeframe.

What kind of ways will you accept donations via text message, donation button on mobile app or site, mobile payments accepted in person at an event, etc.?

Some organizations may prefer to only offer one kind of mobile giving experience versus another that may want to do all three. It depends on what your goals are for your campaign and then you can decide which option(s) make the most sense.

What kind of information do you want to collect on your donors?

An important part of your campaign is also knowing who is donating. Creating a donor database is crucial for any nonprofit, including nonprofit news organizations. By knowing who donated, you can send them a personal thank you via email or regular mail. It also gives you the opportunity to reach out to them again in the future for more giving opportunities or other kinds of initiatives you might launch.

Some Caution: Apple and iOS Platform

When entering the area of mobile giving, it’s important that you understand that there are limitations with fundraising on the mobile device, particularly with the iOS platform from Apple as Elizabeth Pope states in an April article in The NonProfit Times:

One reason is that since 2010, Apple has banned charitable donations made through apps on its iOS platform, the software that powers iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. Apps can suggest that users donate, and can direct them to the nonprofit’s website, but cannot explicitly say anywhere in the app or its description that some or all proceeds will go to charity…

The net effect of this is that users who want to give via their Apple device face a number of obstacles. Once they click the donate button, they’re taken outside the app and forced to navigate through the organization’s website donation form or an external site like PayPal or Google Checkout. The extra steps risk alienating or losing potential donors, especially on the small screens of mobile devices.

Pope suggests that nonprofits consider going the route of friend-to-friend fundraising or using third-party fundraising tools. See more of her tips here.

Tools to Get Started

There are several companies that can help your organization in creating a mobile giving campaign, here are just a few:

Google One Today

One Today is a mobile app through Google for the Android (currently in limited pilot in the U.S.).  First, a nonprofit must be signed up with Google for Nonprofits. There is no fee to use the One Today program. Google matches users to causes they are interested in and that user can make the decision whether they want to donate to that nonprofit or not. The user shares the news with others in the social network and the opportunity to give can spread through the network. Google sends the organization a monthly donation check through their partner Network for Good.


Requires PayPal Business Account. Account comes with a discount for nonprofits.

They also offer a PayPal HereTM tool. It’s a credit card reader tool that plugs into your mobile device (iPhone, iPad or Android) and allows you to accept credit cards from your device on the spot. This can be helpful at fundraising events.


Nadanu has several plans based on the organization’s needs. You can set up multiple campaigns, track the campaigns individually and run detailed reports on each. They offer several ways to integrate the donation screen or fundraising campaign into social networks such as Twitter or Facebook.


Mobile Accord / mGive has over 500 charitable organizations using their platform. They offer several packages for nonprofits depending on the organization's needs. The platform operates off the premise of the user being able to text message a donation to the organization and the user is charged that amount on their next mobile phone bill. The mobile phone company collects the money and sends the organization the funds received.

The Future is Mobile Giving

Nowadays, the mobile platform makes it easy for people to give to their favorite causes with a click of the button and do so often.  As Milliken states in the Forbes article, mobile giving is the future:

The next philanthropic horizon of mobile is here now. In 2013 and beyond, we predict more nonprofit organizations and fundraising professionals will adopt a mobile mindset and engage in mobile-enabled fundraising to tap into a new, growing donor pool.

Additional Resources:

Here are some additional resources that can help you on the path to starting a mobile giving campaign: