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Mobile giving to help Haiti exceeds $30 million

In the past 10 days, Americans used their cell phones to send text messages pledging more than $30 million for Haitian relief efforts.

In the past 10 days, Americans used their cell phones to send text messages pledging more than $30 million for Haitian relief efforts, according to figures released Thursday by the Mobile Giving Foundation.

The unprecedented use of the cell phone for giving was noted by the Pew Research Center on Thursday. The center said of those Americans who have donated money to help Haiti, 14 percent say they gave money via text message, compared to 12 percent by telephone. Nearly 23 percent said they donated via the Web, and 5 percent did so by e-mail.

Giving donations in person still dominates so far, and "39 percent say they have given in person, such as at a church," Pew found.

A number of relief groups have been added to the list of organizations (see below) that can receive text message donations from customers of the four main wireless carriers in the United States: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as smaller carriers, said Jim Manis, chairman and CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Many of the carriers — including the four largest — have vowed to expedite donations to the American Red Cross and to other agencies. Normally, it could take 30 to 60 days to transfer the contributions from customers, which will be added to their mobile phone bills.

Verizon Wireless said Thursday in its "second transfer in a week" that it has transmitted $4.84 million to the American Red Cross, "representing additional dollars pledged by texting customers to the Red Cross relief effort for Haiti." A previous transfer of $2.98 million was made last Friday.

AT&T said it will "advance payment of verified texted donations" to the Red Cross, and that as of Wednesday, customers have pledged more than $10 million, according to Steven Schwardron, AT&T spokesman.

Image: Text message donation to Red Cross
Americans have been donating money in $5 and $10 amounts to help Haiti via text-message donations to various relief agencies.

Sprint said Tuesday its customers have contributed more than $3.1 million in mobile-giving donations, and that starting Friday, the company "will advance 80 percent of the funds of the mobile giving donations from its customers to the relief efforts" in Haiti, with "the remaining 20 percent to be submitted under Sprint’s normal 30- to 90-day settlement cycle."

T-Mobile said it is "working to speed up the transfer of donations from our customers on a weekly basis during this time of crisis so that donations get to the organizations providing relief in Haiti as quickly as possible," said Jim Alling, T-Mobile's chief operations officer on the company's forum site.

The Mobile Giving Foundation said within the first 36 hours after the Jan. 12 quake, "donations made via mobile phones for Haiti earthquake relief ... surpassed $7 million" to several relief organizations. The Bellevue, Wash.-based nonprofit group has worked with the country's four major wireless carriers to arrange for the text-message donation program. Another group involved in the campaign is Denver-based mGive.

Jeffrey Nelson of Verizon Wireless called the campaign "the largest outpouring of charitable support by texting in history — by far."

"In all of 2009, all mobile giving (via texting) to all charities totaled just under $4 million for the year," he said.

Previous donating-via-text message efforts raised $400,000 after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and $200,000 after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by all wireless customers in the U.S., said Nelson.

The American Red Cross is the largest benefactor of the effort so far. Other organizations receiving $5 and $10 donations include the Yele Haiti foundation; the International Rescue Committee; the International Medical Corps; and the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.

In a matter of days, the mobile giving campaign has become a popular and easy way to donate to relief efforts, with all four major carriers backing the text-messaging donation campaign, saying customers will not be charged for text-messaging mobile donations. Smaller carriers around the country are also involved in the program.

Donating is easy; in the Red Cross' case, phone users can text the word "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10," and when prompted, hit "YES" to confirm the donation. The donation is added to the cell user's bill, and receipts are available.

Other text-message words and codes for donations to various organizations include:

  • Text the word "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
  • Text the word “HAITI" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.
  • Text the word "GIVE" to 25383 to donate $10 to the MTV telethon.

  • Text "HAITI" to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee.
  • Text "HAITI" to 85944 to donate $10 to the International Medical Corps.
  • Text "YELE" to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti foundation.
  • Text "HAITI" to 52000 to donate $10 to the Salvation Army.
  • Text "HOPE10" or "UNICEF" to 20222 to donate $10 to UNICEF.
  • Text "HABITAT" to 25383 to donate $10 to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Text "OXFAM" to 25383 to donate $10 to Oxfam America, Inc.
  • Text "HAITI" to 40579 to donate $10 to the National Religious Broadcasters.
  • Text "SAVE" or "SAFE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Save the Children Federation, Inc.
  • Text "GIVE" or "WORLD" to 20222 to donate $10 to World Vision, Inc.
  • Text "CARE" to 24383 to donate to CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.
  • Text "AJWS" to 25383 to donate $10 to the American Jewish World Service.
  • Text the word “LIVE” to 25383 to donate $10 to AmeriCares, Inc.
  • Text the word “LWR” to 40579 to donate $10 to Lutheran World Relief.

The mobile donation campaign, mentioned on the White House's blog has also lent a boost to the activity.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile said its current customers trying to connect with "loved ones in Haiti during the aftermath" of the earthquake can make calls to Haiti without being charged for international long distance calls through Jan. 31. The free calls are retroactive to Jan. 12, the date of the quake, T-Mobile said.

Also, T-Mobile customers "who may already be in Haiti will be able to roam on T-Mobile’s partner networks in Haiti (operated locally in Haiti under the names Voila and Digicel) free-of-charge through the end of the month. In both cases, T-Mobile will remove these charges from customer bills accordingly."

Sprint said between Tuesday and Sunday, Jan. 31, the carrier is "waiving all fees and charges for Sprint customers sending text messages to and from Haiti."

"During times of emergency, it has been shown that sending text messages rather than calling is more reliable form of communications and frees calling lines for critical communication between first responders, other emergency personnel and aid workers," the company said in a news release. "Waived text-messaging fees do not apply to customers roaming on other networks."