Texting to Save Haiti

Text “HAITI” to 90999  on your cell phone and $10 will be donated to the American Red Cross for earthquake relief in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.  That $10 donation will appear on your next cell phone bill – a quick and painless way to speed relief to a country reeling in the face of 7.0-magnitude quake that leveled much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

According to National Public Radio, “This is the first time that there has been a massive giving via text message in the United States.  mGive is the company that’s been working with charitable organizations to set up this donation method.  Tony Aiello, the CEO, says “people are used to interacting with local news sites via cell phone and text message.”  So far, the Red Cross has raised more than $4.7 million for Haitian relief, a number that is expected to grow.

Haitian musician Wyclef Jean, who runs the Yele Haiti charity, asked his Twitter followers to text “YELE” to 501501 to automatically donate $5.  So many responded that the website crashed for a time.

Charities are certain to look back on the Haitian earthquake as a game-changing event, the time when cell phones and social media came into their own as fundraising techniques.  The question is whether social media and new technologies generate more donations, or simply redirects contributions that otherwise would have been made online or by mail.