Posted by: Laura Phillips Garner | January 18, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Tips SMS Giving

Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

SMS (short message service) in fundraising might have reached its “tipping point” after the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. According to “Mobile Commerce Daily,” Red Cross International Relief had earned $1 million within 24 hours of launching its SMS appeal. An article in “Mobile Marketer” said the Red Cross SMS appeal had raised $8 million within two days across all participating cell phone providers. This figure continues to grow.

Think about the power of viral and mobile communication. In two days, 800,000 people had texted “HAITI” to “90999” to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross.

By the morning of January 13, multiple friends had urged me through Facebook to give $10 to the Red Cross to help the citizens of Haiti. At first, I thought it might be a scam. However, CNN television coverage and a trip to a few Web sites including quickly made it clear to me that being able to give and give quickly with my mobile phone was a credible option. My husband and I ultimately decided to give the “old-fashioned” way via the Red Cross Web site because we wanted to give more than $10, but I don’t have any reservations about texting to give now that I’ve done a little research.

The Red Cross is one of 130 non-profits that use the mGive platform for texted contributions of $5 or $10. Other partners include the American Heart Association, Amnesty International, Children’s Miracle Network, Disabled American Veterans, Farm Aid, Operation Smile, PBS, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, UNICEF, United Service Organization (USO) and the United Way. The donations show up on the contributors’ cell phone bills, and donors can make up to two donations per month. Participating mobile phone companies are AT&T, Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular.

mGive charges each non-profit a monthly fee from $399 to $1,499 depending on the package it chooses. If the Red Cross case is any sign of the future of SMS giving, it might be a great investment as long as the non-profit has a strategic marketing communications plan before it launches. After all, donors need to know they can opt to give to a particular organization via SMS and be assured that the organization and the method of giving are trustworthy. Usually, mGive forwards the donations to the non-profits within 90 days, but news outlets like the “Wall Street Journal” are reporting that, due to the tragic circumstances in Haiti, Verizon Wireless and other carriers will front the pledges so the money can get there immediately.

The White House also is promoting its own SMS campaign for the You can donate $10 by texting “QUAKE” to 20222. Learn more about the White House efforts by clicking on the graphic above. CNN World lists relief organizations that are taking donations by text.

For more information about donating via text message, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Advice on Donating by Text Message for Haiti Relief Efforts.

—Laura Phillips Garner


  1. Great info. about texting to give. I almost did that for Haiti but thought that my $$ might get there faster if I just went to and donated online. I like that companies fronted the money raised by texting, as it sounds like it would have normally taken up to 90 days. Interesting post and I enjoy your blog!

    • Hi Angela,

      Thanks. I am glad you enjoy my blog. Texting to give has really hit a tipping point as, according to Mobile Marketer, more than $35 million had been raised for Haiti by $5 and $10 text donations by the end of January. I will be interested to see how SMS giving grows.


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