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Red Cross SMS appeal for Haiti raises $8M in 2 days

Mobile giving has reached new heights with consumers donating more than $5 million via their handsets to aid the disaster relief efforts in Haiti.

Several organizations have launched SMS campaigns after an earthquake that clocked in a 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. According to the White House, consumers in the United States across all wireless carriers have contributed more than $8 million to the Red Cross relief for the Haiti campaign.

?Raising this amount of money $10 at a time is a true testament to the American spirit,? said Jana Waterworth-McAndrew, manager of online fundraising and individual giving at the American Red Cross, Washington. ?The success of the mobile campaign shows the powerful impact and opportunity this channel can have on fundraising.

?The needs in Haiti are tremendous and we want to thank the people who continue to donate and help the American Red Cross meet that need,? she said.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters. It supplies nearly half of the nation?s blood, teaches lifesaving skills, provides international humanitarian aid and supports military members and their families.

Over the past two days the Red Cross SMS campaign has been the largest outpouring of charitable support via text in history.

?This is really just an incredible outpouring from wireless customers,? said Jeffrey Nelson, executive director of corporate communications at Verizon Wireless, Basking Ridge, NJ. ?It?s a pretty clear convergence of a few different things: One is just the absolute, gut-wrenching images and stories coming out of Haiti, they are compelling people to act and on top of that they have mobile phone in their hands.?

Both the White House blog and the United States? Department of State blog posted updates with the call-to-action urging consumers to donate to the Red Cross via SMS.

As of Thursday morning the Red Cross has pledged more than $10 million in relief funds.

Mobile giving booms
More than 100,000 Verizon Wireless customers have pledged more than $1 million by texting HAITI to 90999.

According to Verizon, in 2009, previously the biggest mobile giving year in history, the total amount of mobile donations to all charities was just less than $4 million.

Other campaigns include former President Bill Clinton?s foundation that asks consumers to text the keyword HAITI to short code 20222 to donate $10.

Consumers can also text the keyword YELE to short code 501501 to donate $5 to singer Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund.

The International Rescue Committee is also running an SMS campaign to raise funds for the disaster relief in Haiti.

Consumers can text the keyword HAITI to short code 25383 to give $5. The donation goes to the Haiti Relief Fund.

Like the Red Cross? campaign, the $5 will be added to the consumer?s monthly phone bill.

The mobile giving relief efforts launched in the wake of the Haiti disaster trump the previous SMS donation records.

In August 2005, $400,000 was collected via mobile in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Red Cross relief efforts.

After the December 2004 tsunami in India, CARE collected a total of $200,000 via mobile.

According to mGive, most of the mobile donations have come from California and New York.

Californians donated 15.4 percent of the total mobile donations and New Yorkers have made up 12.2 percent.

Mr. Nelson said consumers have been getting more comfortable with wireless transactions via their handsets and that has contributed to the amount of mobile donations the Red Cross has received.

However, Mr. Nelson said in the grand scheme of things mobile is clearly not going to be the primary way donations are going to be made for relief efforts in Haiti.

The amount of mobile donations the Red Cross has seen has made it clear to philanthropic organizations that this is a channel for them to tap donors.

?When you consider people texting $10 donations, my instincts as marketer suggests these are not same kind of people that go through six months of direct mail and sort through who give to,? Mr. Nelson said. ?When you?re texting it?s the immediacy of it, you saw the image, you saw your friend tweeting or you heard the radio.

?That?s fresh blood for charities,? he said. ?These are typically going to be younger consumers and people who live more in the moment than a traditional giving base.?

Added Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010:

First Lady Michelle Obama is in a TV commercial encouraging Americans to donate to the Red Cross disaster relief efforts. Here is the commercial:

This video is further evidence of the power of SMS.