It has become evident that activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins by cytoplasmic proteins that are not G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) plays a role in physiology and disease. Despite sharing the same biochemical guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) activity as GPCRs in vitro, the mechanisms by which these cytoplasmic proteins trigger G-protein-dependent signaling in cells have not been elucidated. Heterotrimeric G-proteins can give rise to two active signaling species, Gα-GTP and dissociated Gβγ, with different downstream effectors, but how non-receptor GEFs affect the levels of these two species in cells is not known. Here, a systematic comparison of GPCRs and three unrelated non-receptor proteins with GEF activity in vitro (GIV/Girdin, AGS1/Dexras1, and Ric-8A) revealed high divergence in their contribution to generating Gα-GTP and free Gβγ in cells directly measured with live-cell biosensors. These findings demonstrate fundamental differences in how receptor and non-receptor G-protein activators promote signaling in cells despite sharing similar biochemical activities in vitro.