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Text Message Donations to US Red Cross Haiti Appeal Pass $24 Million

21 January 2010 at 3:45 pm
Staff Reporter
Text message donation campaigns are taking off to help Haiti earthquake victims

Staff Reporter | 21 January 2010 at 3:45 pm


Text Message Donations to US Red Cross Haiti Appeal Pass $24 Million
21 January 2010 at 3:45 pm

Passed off by many as a fundraising fad, the response to the earthquake in Haiti has shown text-message donation campaigns can be a highly effective tool for raising money for disaster relief.

In the first seven days following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross received more than US$24 million text-message donations for their relief efforts.

American Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe told the Washington Post recently the result is truly an unprecedented amount for a text message campaign, easily beating the organisation’s previous emergency relief record of $400,000 using similar technology.

The effectiveness of the campaign has been attributed to the immediacy and simplicity of the process. Mobile phone users in the US send the word ‘Haiti’ in a text message to the number 90999, and a $10 donation is added to the person’s phone bill.

Kai Ryssdal, host of American Public Media’s Marketplace program, described the Haiti disaster as the easiest natural disaster to donate to ever, with instant contribution and instant reward for the giver.

Ryssdal was interviewing Katya Andresen, chief operating officer at Network for Good, who said when people are given an opportunity to act right away, when they feel an impulse to give, they really respond. She said social media and mobile giving can level the playing field and increase donations to smaller organisations, and that receiving donations this way is a less expensive way for charities to receive funds.

The enormity of the situation has seen US telecommunications carriers forego standard fees for the text messages, with Verizon Wireless already transferring more than US$2.9 million in pledges to the Red Cross, instead of waiting for the customers to pay their bills.

President of the American Institute of Philanthropy Daniel Borochoff told the Washington Post text message campaigns allow charities to tap into new sources of giving, such as young adults. Borochoff said that young people who don’t normally give will give because it’s so easy – they hit a few buttons and can show off, and it’s the cooler, hipper way of donating.

Mobile phone usage has changed greatly over the last few years, especially since the introduction of the iPhone and smart phones to the market. Mobile phones are now used for an almost endless variety of tasks outside of the making phone calls.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 83% of adults in the US have mobile phones, with over a third of people using their mobile phones to access the internet. In Australia this number is even higher – with the ABS reporting that in June 2006 there were 19.86 million mobile phone subscriptions in Australia.

To make a donation to the Red Cross appeal, visit

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