Haiti Relief: Text Messages Speed Donations

If you have logged on to Facebook or Twitter since the devastating Haiti earthquake Tuesday night, it is likely you saw messages like this:

"Text 'HAITI' to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts!" or, "Text 'Yele' to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund."

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While both may seem like scams, mobile giving is legitimate, convenient and really that simple. Just send a text message right from your mobile device and you have donated to relief efforts.

The donation will be billed to your wireless account -- with no need to enter credit card information, log on to a Web site or even speak to an operator.

The Red Cross effort is being coordinated by the mGive Foundation, an organization that links charities with mobile carriers to enable donors to send small dollar amounts .

"It's microdonations by millions of people, adding up to an amount that can make a difference," said Tony Aiello, senior vice president at mGive.

Aiello said that many donors see the images of the disaster on television or on the Internet and are motivated by the ease with which they can contribute.

"So many people now recognize they can use their mobile phone to donate," he said. "It's an impulse give. You don't have to be sitting in front of [a] computer and can donate a small amount of money,"

The American Red Cross launched its mobile campaign at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and as of 10 a.m. on Thursday had raised $3.4 million just from text message donations.

This was, by far, the largest event in terms of mobile giving, Aiello said. Last year's "Keep the Child Alive" campaign on Fox's "American Idol" brought in $450,000 through mobile giving of $5 donations.

Even the Obama administration is steering Americans to mobile devices to donate to relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti on Tuesday. On the White House Web site, people interested in donating can find information about how send money to the American Red Cross through its Web site or the 90999 text number.

Another charity that is getting a lot of buzz on Twitter and Facebook is the "Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund," the charity established by musician Wyclef Jean, formally of the Fugees. Jean, a native of Haiti, has been actively promoting his mobile giving site through television appearances.

Mobile Giving Drives Tap Into More Than 270 Million Potential Donors

There are more than 270 million mobile subscribers nationwide, according to data from the CTIA, the organization representing the wireless industry. Over 100 billion text messages are sent every month by American mobile users.

Recognizing the ease, convenience and prevalence of mobile phones, the Mobile Giving Foundation was established to link charities, mobile providers and donors. The non-profit organization has more than 400 charities on contract and 800 campaigns.

mGive, which does similar work, has more than 200 non-profits incorporating mobile technology into their daily operations.

"People are getting more familiar with using their phones for charitable giving," Aiello said.

Both organizations say that 100 percent of an individual donation goes directly to the charity for which it is intended.

All the major mobile carriers -- Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T -- participate in these charitable efforts and waive fees for text donations for an approved nonprofit organization through the Mobile Giving Foundation.

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