The mobile giving effort after the devastating earthquake in Haiti is putting up numbers the likes of which the world has never seen. Just a week after the quake hit, reports are coming in that combined giving via mobile phones amounts to more than $20 million.
The response to the Haiti devastation dwarfs previous mobile giving efforts. A spokesman for Verizon Wireless said that the previous record for mobile giving was set in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina, when the Red Cross raised $400,000 for relief efforts.
Short codes traditionally have been used for marketing campaigns. However, since President Barack Obama’s successful grassroots campaign in 2008, the opt-in SMS-based solution has proven its effectiveness in mobilizing large groups of people toward a single goal.
Jim Manis, CEO of Mobile Giving Foundation, the organization behind many of the campaigns currently running, said the amazing response to Haiti is due to a number of factors.
“I think you have such tragic disaster, and people are generous and people want to help, and it’s a very personal way to respond. There’s a very personal nature that’s tied in with the cell phone. It’s a very intimate way to respond to a situation like the one in Haiti ,” Manis said.
But he also said that a lot of hard work over the years since Katrina has paid off. Manis said that the company has created an infrastructure that is now paying big dividends.
“Consumers now have choice and that makes a difference,” he said.
Diane Strahan, vice president of mobile marketing for Neustar, the company behind the common short code registry, said this most recent outpouring of generosity through mobile giving is a defining moment for the technology.
“All of these things are teaching moments. They’re teaching Americans how to get engaged in a cause and help through the use of common short codes and text-based messaging,” Strahan said.
Strahan stressed that the simplicity of the short code is at the heart of the technology’s effectiveness.
“I think what companies like mGive and the Mobile Giving Foundation figured out was how to actually have the short code be “the” call to action and be “the” main media message. It’s a very simple message. It’s powerful because it can be added to every single medium out there,” Strahan said.
“As we look across the media…in all cases the call to action is the short code and it is actually being applied on the radio, in print, on the internet, in interviews and pervasively throughout all news and fundraising-type initiatives,” Strahan said, adding that American Red Cross is reporting that a fifth of their donations are coming through SMS,” she said.
The carriers haven’t let the donations go unmatched. Most have foregone the red tape traditionally associated with short code campaigns. For instance, most of the carriers in North America have waived standard messaging fees for text-based donations, allowing 100 percent of proceeds go directly to the relief organization. T-Mobile USA even went so far as to waive all international calling charges for those trying to reach people in Haiti .
Starting this Friday, Sprint will advance 80 percent of the funds of the mobile giving donations from its customers to the relief efforts in the Republic of Haiti , with the remaining 20 percent to be submitted under Sprint’s normal 30- to 90-day settlement cycle.
Verizon Wireless on Friday transmitted $2,987,560 to the American Red Cross, representing dollars pledged by texting customers to the Red Cross relief effort for Haiti . That amount represented donations made by Verizon Wireless customers for only the first two days of the campaign.
AT&T donated $50,000 to the Red Cross immediately after the quake and says it has donated $200,000 to the organization already this year as part of a $1 million commitment. AT&T also has pledged continuing support to the relief effort as needed.
As for the existing cellular structure in Haiti before the earthquake, Digicel says things are looking up. “We are making good progress on returning our network to full strength with more and more cell sites coming back online and voice calls, text messaging, e-mail and Blackberry Messenger available all across the country. Some customers may experience difficulties making and receiving calls at certain times largely due to the high volume of customers taking advantage of the $10 million we have given them in free credit,” Colm Delves, group CEO of Digicel, said in a statement.
As the single largest investor in Haiti with a total investment of $300 million since its launch in 2006, Digicel has more than 2 million customers in Haiti and has announced a $5 million donation to the Haiti relief efforts.
Filed Under: Industry regulations