03/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The New Face of Mobile Giving

The horrendous crisis in Haiti has spawned an outpouring of donations via mobile texting that philanthropy experts believe could have a lasting impact on the charity world.

As of Thursday, 1.14.10, the Mobile Giving Foundation reported that in 36 hours, donations made via mobile phones for Haiti had surpassed $7 million. "The changing face of philanthropy has been seen. A new demo moved to mobile giving as the wireless platform enables impulse giving and empowers the individual," said Jim Manis, Chairman & CEO, Mobile Giving Foundation. The Bellevue, Washington based nonprofit group has worked with the country's four major wireless carriers to arrange for the text message donation program. Manis is the visionary behind the success.

Using wireless technology for charitable giving is not new, and Manis was responsible for its first use in response relief efforts for the Asian tsunami in 2004, and Katrina in 2005, while he was SVP at m-Qube, Inc. "The viable technology has been there for some time," said Manis, "but what's enabled the surge now is the addition of layers of business practices, terms and conditions, and an increase in the consumer's level of awareness."

The MGF created and enabled the space -- working with the major carriers to help nonprofits develop short codes, specialized regulations and contracts that allow 100 percent, tax-free pass through on mobile donations, which appear as a premium gift on your wireless bill. According to Manis, "The carriers, traditionally considered tough negotiators, were surprisingly gracious and agreed easily and readily to the 100 percent pass-through with 0 percent revenue share for themselves."

Several key factors that have contributed to the success of the Haiti mobile giving include:

1. Convenience -- the ability to simply send a designated word to a five- or six-digit number, confirm the amount, and the charge goes to their wireless bill. At the end of the month, the carriers transfer the contributions to a service provider like mGive, which passes them on to the charity.

2. Texting captures impulse giving and enables individual empowerment and personal ownership -- highly motivating factors for the younger generation who is the face of this new demo.

3. Transparency -- the consumer knows precisely where his donation is going.

4. Micro-donations -- setting the give at $5-$10 works well in a bad economy.

As for the usual 90-day pass through, in the case of emergency relief, the rules can be changed. Verizon Wireless footed the bill (for now) and made an advance $2.98 million transfer immediately to the Red Cross for Haiti -- wanting to get the relief monies into the pipeline as soon as possible.

Manis founded the Mobile Giving Foundation in 2007. Their Mission Satement: "The Mobile Giving Foundation serves as the 'glue' between a charitable giving campaign, the wireless industry and the 250 million wireless users in the United States. MGF processes and vets applications from nonprofit organizations wishing to deploy wireless technology in their communication and fundraising activities... Our messaging platform is then used by wireless carriers through their short message service (SMS) centers. The wireless carriers pass 100 percent of the charitable funds they collect through to MGF. The MGF also remits 100 percent of the donation to the recipient nonprofit within 30 days of receiving funds from the wireless carriers. The MGF charges back costs for short-code costs, reporting and messaging charges directly to the nonprofit organizations or their supporting service providers on a post-donation basis."

Will mobile giving replace the traditional telethons with phone banks?
No -- it will merely add another dimension for success. MTV has already announced "Hope for Haiti," the global telethon to air commercial-free across ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT on Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Since Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, was devastated by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake, U.S. mobile users have donated more than $10 million using their cellphones.
Let's hope this is just a beginning...

(This piece appears courtesy of