Corrected Tuesday 4 p.m. PT. A week after a massive earthquake struck Haiti, the country’s terrible devastation continues to captivate and motivate onlookers — and one of the simplest and best-publicized ways to help is to send a $5 or $10 donation through a text message. Combined, the two major mobile giving platforms, mGive and the Mobile Giving Foundation, have raised $42 $27 million via text message commitments from Americans and Canadians. Initially, as we reported, those mobile donations faced 90-day delays to reach Haiti, based on the emergent industry’s practices of billing subscribers via their carriers during their normal payment cycle.
However now the four major American carriers have all committed to making an exception, passing the donations on to Haiti more quickly. Verizon kicked it off with $2.98 million sent to Haiti on Friday (the total of its customers’ mobile giving at that time). Sprint said, also on Friday, it would send 80 percent of the $1.2 million its customers had donated to Haiti immediately, with the rest to follow. T-Mobile said Monday on a customer support forum that it aimed to get funds to Haiti by “this week.” And a spokesperson for AT&T told us via email, “Yes, we will advance payment of verified texted donations to the Red Cross for Haiti relief as soon as possible.” He said AT&T customers had pledged more than $9 million to the Red Cross via text as of Monday afternoon.
Carriers are also waiving text message fees for the Haiti donation process, in which a user texts a keyword like “Haiti” or “quake” to a short code, then receives a response, confirms the donation, and then receives a thank you — for a total of four text messages.
The Mobile Giving Foundation said in a press release that it continues to see the rate of mobile donations rise, with $3.5 million donated on Sunday alone for a total of more than $20 $27 million raised. mGive said separately it is processing more than $10,000 per minute in text donations at peak, and has seen $22 $23 million pledged to the Red Cross (the vast majority of all American mobile donations). The Haiti fundraising effort is easily the largest mobile giving campaign to date.
After the dust settles, the carriers and the mobile giving facilitators will have to establish better processes for mobile fundraising. While it makes complete sense to expedite desperately needed disaster relief funding, there’s a risk of opening the door to money transfer for unverified causes, and pre-authorizing donations on which subscribers then default.
Correction: This article originally treated the amounts raised by the Mobile Giving Foundation and mGive as two separate figures. However, the Mobile Giving Foundation included mGive’s fundraising totals in the numbers it released. We have corrected the story with new numbers, accurate as of Tuesday afternoon.