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American Red Cross runs $25-per-text holiday mobile giving initiative

December 7, 2010

The American Red Cross is a pioneer in the mobile giving space

The American Red Cross is a pioneer in the mobile giving space

The American Red Cross is upping the ante on its mobile giving initiatives this holiday season, letting donors text to donate $25 at a time to support the nonprofit organization.

Mobile donations service provider mGive is powering the $25 text donation campaign for the Red Cross. This new mobile donation campaign, which will run through Dec. 31, enables individuals to make a $25 mobile donation to the Red Cross by texting the keyword GIFT to short code 90999.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Joshua Kittner, senior marketing consultant for digital engagement at the American Red Cross, Washington. Here is what he had to say:

What is the American Red Cross’s strategy behind its partnership with mGive and its mobile giving initiatives?
I think that the best place to start is to describe the mobile environment pre-Haiti, and move forward.

The American Red Cross is always looking for innovative ways to engage with the public and invite them to support our cause.

For example, the Red Cross social media presence provides a way for us to listen to the needs of the public and also offers an outlet for their compassion.

People can make a financial contribution, sign up to donate blood and rally their friends.

We recognized that mobile technology was dramatically changing how consumers interact with brands like the American Red Cross.

We created a working group in 2009 of people across the organization to build a mobile marketing strategy, and brought in trusted extended partners who were mobile industry veterans.

From the start, we knew text messaging would be a key element of our strategy as it has the most reach of any wireless service used by consumers.

When the devastating earthquake struck in Haiti, the working group was prepared to quickly move into action.

The U.S. State Department, working with mGive, encouraged the creation of the Text Haiti program.

MGive reached out to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association to discuss the program, and based on our long-standing relationship with CTIA, the American Red Cross was recommended as the partner non-profit.

The “Text Haiti” to 90999 program was live and operational within hours of the earthquake.

What happened next was truly remarkable, as Text HAITI to 90999 became a rally cry.

The State Department, White House, entertainment and news media outlets, and especially the general public all helped spread the word.

Within a few days of the quake, there were more than 2.3 million Tweets about the Text Haiti program.

The generosity of the American public led to approximately $33 million in pledges for Haiti relief and recovery.

Throughout the weeks and months that followed, the Red Cross continued to engage donors that opted in to receive follow up text messages, providing them with information on how their donation is being spent, and offering additional ways to become engaged with the response.

The Red Cross is grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the public.

We also want to thank our wireless carrier partners who waived text messaging fees, advanced funds for the relief efforts, promoted the program online and on mobile Web banners, and fielded customer-care calls from their subscribers.

MGive also stood out, as it donated the use of its platform, waived fees and donated staffing resources and expertise.

Following the success of Haiti, we continued to work with mGive and launched the “Text REDCROSS to 90999” disaster fundraising campaign, which enables people to make a $10 text donation to disaster relief.

We also continued to expand our outbound text messages, offering updates on everything from hurricane season to providing our mobile subscribers with an exclusive discount at on Cyber Monday.

Our relationship with mGive has continued, and most recently we launched “Text GIFT to 90999,” which enables donors for the first time to contribute $25.

Can mobile help the American Red Cross reach a different demographic mix or audience of potential donors? Or is it another way to reach its current donor base?
Mobile giving is a way to reach a new generation of donors and engage more with existing donors. We found that 41 percent of Red Cross donors to Haiti below age 34 were influenced by the appeal for text donations for Haiti.

So, we believe that mobile giving has and will continue to provide our organization an opportunity to connect with a new generation of supporters. 

Today almost everybody has a mobile phone, including our current donors. Smartphone adoption rates are at an all time high and are accelerating. 

There are a few hundred thousand applications available through the various application stores and mobile is poised to be the leading way that people access the Internet.

We want to make sure that the public can to connect with the Red Cross whether it is for texting a donation, scheduling to give blood, responding to a call-to-action on a mobile Web banner or receiving services.

The Red Cross is not only a trusted brand that is steeped in tradition, but we are constantly evolving with the times.

What impact do you envision mobile having on your fundraising efforts going forward?
The outpouring of support for the text HAITI to 90999 effort was a game-changer for mobile giving, and donation via mobile is here to stay.

Text donations accounted for about 7 percent of our total Haiti fundraising. 

As the public increasingly adopts mobile to access the web the mobile share of donations will also increase. So we see mobile becoming increasingly more important to our fundraising efforts over time.

The opportunities in mobile are endless.  Today it’s clear that text, mobile Web and applications are important.

Emerging capabilities such as QR codes and abbreviated dial codes give us more ways for the public to connect with us and I’m sure there will be innovations in the future that we could hardly imagine today.

The American Red Cross continues to look for new ideas that can have a significant impact on our ability to connect with the public, deliver services and enable the public to get involved.

Final Take

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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