Text message fundraising takes off for Haiti relief groups

As images of the devastation in Haiti were broadcast around the globe last week, the world responded. Generously.

As images of the devastation in Haiti were broadcast around the globe last week, the world responded. Generously.

According to news reports, the American Red Cross raised more than $9 million in the first three days of its text messaging fundraising campaign. That's more than $100,000 an hour. Millions more were raised by other relief organizations.

Mobile phone fundraising has been around for years. What made these recent campaigns so successful?

Obviously, there was a clear, immediate need. Fundraising is almost always more successful when it is in response to an emergency need, as opposed to ongoing, less urgent requests for support.

The calls to donate were communicated via virtually every traditional media channel – from daily newspapers to national television news, as well as through social networks. The White House blog promoted the Red Cross' text message fundraising campaign, while Twitter and Facebook users spread the word about the effort, and many others.

The message was incredibly simple for media to pass along. Even the shortest news story could manage to fit in “Donate $10 by texting ‘Haiti' to 90999.”

The Red Cross and others also made it easy to give, overcoming consumer “slacktivism,” which is that competition between laziness and wanting to help. There were no donation forms to fill in, no digging out a credit card, and no trying to remember a PayPal password. The mobile phone providers, who waived texting fees, just added the donation to the next cell phone bill.

It will be interesting to see how text messaging fundraising campaigns evolve after this crisis subsides.

Lynne Doll, president, The Rogers Group

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