Mobile Giving Options Make it Quick and Easy to Help Now

January 14th, 2010

American Red Cross launched a mobile fundraising effort on January 12, approximately three hours after the earthquake struck Haiti. As of 9am today, less than two days later, more than $3 million has been raised. And it keeps coming.

The first thing I did when I heard about the Haiti disaster was search for a quick way to help. I found the American Red Cross mobile information on my first search and within seconds I made a donation via my cell phone.

You can donate $10 to Haiti relief by texting “Haiti” to 90999

Online and mobile giving is quickly becoming the growth engine for non-profits.  And for good reason. Using the latest technology, non-profits are able to reach out quickly to wider audiences and solicit smaller donation. Technology advancements now enable non-profits to efficiently and effectively reach donors they’ve not been able to connect with before. Online giving continues to grow and now accounts for 5% of total giving, 16% of new donors and 27% of new revenue.

In mid 2008, the Mobile Giving Foundation was formed to open the mobile donation process to a wide range of qualified 501c3 non-profits. Through deals with the major cell phone carriers, a $5 or $10 donation is added to a phone bill when someone pledges by using a special short via an SMS (text) message. The money is collected by the carriers then passed on to the non-profit.

It’s simple. And mobile phones are ubiquitous. Text-based fundraising is all about immediacy. You don’t need to wait until you get home and turn on the computer. It’s all so quick and convenient, you can give in the moment. There’s no chance of you forgetting to do it later. So mobile giving has rapidly taken off. It’s growing faster than online giving and more and more non-profits are adding a mobile giving option.

Reports I found estimated that over $2 million was raised via mobile in 2009. In the first 14 days of 2010 we’ve already surpassed that level. And that’s just from the money raised by the American Red Cross.  There are several other companies that have mobilized giving as a result of the earthquake in Haiti. And the mobile giving information has gone viral as people tweet and post on Facebook and encourage their friends to help those affected by the earthquake.

Read more about the The Changing and Challenging Nature of Fundraising in the story I wrote for our November 2009  Thinking newsletter.

In addition to mobile giving, people who want to help those affected by the Haitian earthquake can also make a donation to the American Red Cross International Response Fund at or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. Plus you can donate up to $200 to the Red Cross via iTunes: Check out 20 ways to help Haiti.


1/18/2010 UPDATE:  Americans have pledged more than $21 million to the American Red Cross for Haitian relief efforts via text messages on their cell phones as of Monday according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy — an unprecedented amount for mobile donations.  In contrast, it raised $200,000 from texts during the 2008 hurricane season.

Six days after the massive earthquake struck, donors have contributed more than $210-million total to major U.S. relief groups, a Chronicle tally finds.

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as mobile phone technology have made it easier for charities like the American Red Cross  to raise these needed funds.