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[liberationtech] MEDIA: Haiti Fundraising Goes Viral -- Delete if not interested

Yosem Companys ycompanys at
Thu Jan 14 13:42:33 PST 2010,8816,1953528,00.html

Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010
Donating by Text: Haiti Fundraising Goes Viral
By Anita Hamilton

The first tweet came through just two hours after the massive earthquake
devastated Haiti's capital early Tuesday evening: "Please text 'Yéle' to
501501 to donate $5 to Yéle Haiti. Your money will help with relief efforts.
They need our help." Sent from the Twitter account of Haitian-born
musician Wyclef
Jean <,9171,1562954,00.html>, the
text message went out to the singer's nearly 1.4 million
followers<> and
kicked off what has quickly become the largest text-based fundraising
campaign for disaster relief in history. An American Red Cross text-donation
campaign <>, which was launched an hour after
Yéle's, had raised more than $800,000 by 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Text-based fundraising is all about immediacy. You don't need to wait until
you get home and turn on the computer. Simply enter a five- or six-digit
code into your cell phone, along with a single word in the body of the text,
such as "Haiti." You don't even need to plug in your credit-card info — the
donation amount is simply added to your next phone bill. It's all so quick
and convenient, you can give in the moment. There's no chance of you
forgetting to do it later. (See pictures of the Haiti quake's

Plus, when you find out about a cause by getting a text message from a
friend, you're more likely to trust it and feel a sense of community by
giving. Mary South, an editor in Brooklyn, N.Y., says she decided to donate
$10 by text to the Red Cross on Wednesday afternoon after she read a
friend's post about it on Facebook. "I thought, If everyone else is doing
it, then I can too," says South, who says she gives to other nonprofits
online but had never donated via text message. "When you see that kind of
devastation, you want to do something," she adds.

"The viral aspect of mobile is key," says Tony Aiello, business-development
director of Mobile Accord, a Denver company that serves as a financial
clearinghouse between cell-phone carriers and dozens of
nonprofits<> ranging
from Farm Aid to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (See where the next five big
earthquakes will

"This is the first time there has been a major disaster when this type of
service has been widely available," says Yéle Haiti executive director Hugh
Locke, whose nonprofit will use the funds to send nutrition bars, candles,
hand-cranked flashlights and blankets to Haiti on two FedEx planes this
Friday. "People want a sense of participating in the response. There is an
emotional need to do something," he adds.

For the Haiti crisis, Yéle's technology partners Mobile
 and Give on the Go <> have waived their typical
waiting period of two weeks to deposit the donations. Firms like Mobile
Accord — which manages the Red Cross system, among others — pay out
donations on a quarterly basis, after customers have paid their cell-phone
carriers and those companies have forwarded the money, 100% of which goes
toward relief efforts. (Read "Seismologist Roger Musson: Haiti Quake Was the
'Big One.' ")<,8599,1953284,00.html>

As with any kind of giving, it's wise to verify that the cause you are
donating to is a legitimate organization before pledging funds. This is
especially true when you learn of a nonprofit on Facebook, where phishing
and other scams can give the impression that your friends are sending out
links, when really a spammer has hijacked their identity. (See TIME's
photo-essay about the 2004 tsunami in

Legitimate organizations send a confirmation text moments after you donate
to verify that you really want to give the amount specified, typically $5 or
$10. If you say yes, then the amount will appear on your next cell-phone
bill. If you did not intend to donate, you can cancel your pledge. While the
cell-phone bill serves as a receipt for tax purposes, donors to causes
sponsored by Mobile Accord can also print out a list of all their donations
in a given year from the company's MGive <> site. Most
text-based services will also let you sign up for tweets to learn how
donations were spent. That kind of accountability may give you the peace of
mind that your impulse give actually made a difference.
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