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Mobile fundraising kicks in for Japan catastrophe

March 15, 2011

Mobile fundraising has provided support to nonprofits helping Japanese victims of the natural disaster

Nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, wireless carriers and a range of celebrities have stepped up to issue mobile calls-to-action to raise funds to support victims of the tragedy in Japan.

The “Text REDCROSS to 90999” initiative, which was set-up following the record-shattering “Text HAITI” campaign, is always available for the public to use as an outlet for their compassion and a way to support the Red Cross’ mission. To date, the American public has already donated more than $1.1 million via Text REDCROSS to 90999 in support of the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, many of whom have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods,” said Joshua Kittner, senior marketing consultant of digital engagement at the American Red Cross, Washington. “Since early Friday morning, we have been in close contact with our colleagues in the Pacific region to offer our support and learn more about the humanitarian needs.

“The Japanese Red Cross has indicated it would be grateful for financial support from the American Red Cross for the relief efforts,” he said. “Having a donation channel that is easy to use, always on and within an arm’s reach enables us to harness people’s generosity and turn it into action. 

“Our goal with our text program is to empower people to join in support of the Red Cross mission.”

Mobile and social keys to spreading the word
Many people have helped by making donations, and many have opted-in to receive additional information through text messages from the Red Cross, continuing the relationship.

Mr. Kittner said that in the case of text-message donations, social media sites are doing a great job of spreading the message.

Text REDCROSS has been a trending topic on Twitter, with people from all walks of life tweeting out the SMS call-to-action.

“Twitter generously placed #helpJapan in the promoted trend slot today pro bono in an effort to keep Japan at the top of every Twitter user’s heart, mind and Twitter screen,” Mr. Kittner said.

“People from all walks of life have helped spread the message on how to help, and this includes members of the American Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet,” he said.

“Many of our members have significant followings on their social media platforms and were able to immediately provide messages to their fan base.”

Miley Cyrus, Alyssa Milano, Nancy O’Dell, Leeza Gibbons, Dr. Phil, Wynonna Judd, Sara Evans, Elisabeth Rohm and Marlee Matlin, among others, have tweeted or posted messages on Facebook in support of Red Cross relief efforts.

Via Twitter, Alyssa Milano urged followers: “Please donate to @redcross | Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 #Japan /via @DavidAugust.”

Marlee Matlin tweeted, “I’m in #Kenya but thoughts and prayers for the victims of the earthquake and #tsunami in Japan. Go to @redcross if you want to help. Txext REDCROSS to 90999 and $10 will be donated to @redcross to help victims of the #earthquake and #tsunami in #Japan.”

Leeza Gibbons urged Twitter followers to “Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 in support of the Japan earthquakes and pacific tsunami #prayforjapan @redcross.”

Miley Cyrus posted the following message on Facebook: “My heart goes out to those affected by the Japan earthquakes and pacific tsunamis. Those who want to help can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 in support of the Japan earthquakes and Pacific tsunami.”

Carrier support
The major carriers in the U.S. waive SMS fees for charitable giving in the wake of disasters.

For example, Verizon Wireless has implemented a mobile giving program for customers looking for a way to contribute to Japan relief efforts.

The company’s customers can use their mobile phones to make $10 donations to various non-profit organizations responding to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Customers can make a $10 donation by sending a text message and may choose from nine organizations aiding those in need in Japan, including the American Red Cross.

Verizon is helping to promote the following keyword-short-code calls-to-action:

• ADRA Relief: text SUPPORT to 85944

• American Red Cross Relief: text REDCROSS to 90999

• Convoy of Hope: text TSUNAMI or SUNAMI to 50555

• GlobalGiving: text JAPAN to 50555

• International Medical Corps: text MED to 80888

• Mercy Corps: text MERCY to 25383

• Salvation Army: text JAPAN to 80888

• Save the Children Federation Inc.: text JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222

• World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals: text WAVE to 50555

• World Vision Inc.: text 4JAPAN or 4TSUNAMI to 20222

Text messages are free for customers donating to any of these organizations.

Verizon Wireless always waives text-messaging fees for disaster relief, and 100 percent of each $10 donation goes to the relief organization.

For Verizon Wireless customers who pay monthly bills, the $10 donations will appear in customers’ next regular monthly bill.

For customers using the company’s prepaid services, the $10 donations will be taken from customers’ prepaid balance.

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan, PayPal is now crediting transactional fees incurred from March 11 to April 10 to any US 501(c)(3) organization or Canada Revenue Agency registered charity fundraising to aid Japan relief. This includes mobile donations.

Mobile giving going mainstream
Organizations such as the Mobile Giving Foundation and the mGive Foundation help nonprofit organizations with their mobile strategy and help them drive mobile giving, often via shared SMS short codes.

The mGive Foundation , a 501(c)(3) public charity enabling and processing mobile donation campaigns in the U.S., has established text-based giving campaigns for its nonprofit clients in response to the devastation from the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The mGive Foundation, which vets and certifies nonprofit clients, is working with several nonprofits to process donations for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan.

For those who want to donate to the relief effort, a text message pledges $10.

Following is a list of the text donation options for nonprofits providing disaster relief to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan:

 * Convoy of Hope: text TSUNAMI to 50555 to donate $10

 * American Red Cross Relief: text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10

 * World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals: text WAVE to 50555 to donate $10

 * GlobalGiving: text JAPAN to 50555 to donate $10

When prompted, mobile donors can reply with the keyword YES to confirm a one-time gift.

The $10 one-time donation will appear on the donor’s next mobile bill.

All donations are tax deductible and receipts may be printed at Message and data rates may apply.

Nonprofits working with The mGive Foundation to support their mobile giving campaigns receive 100 percent pass-through of funds raised.

“Japan has formally asked for aid and there are thousands of people in need,” said Jenifer Snyder, executive director of the mGive Foundation, Denver. “Mobile provides a powerful way for people to respond to a global need, even in a developed nation like Japan.

“It mobilizes people who are compelled to give small and large amounts alike,” she said.

The 2010 mobile donation campaigns for Haiti highlighted the powerful potential of mobile technology to help relieve human suffering.

The text-message campaigns for Haiti conducted by charitable organizations and facilitated through The mGive Foundation raised more than $41 million.

“We help to empower people who are compelled to donate, even in small increments, in order to assist organizations providing relief efforts with the assistance and support that they need,” Ms. Snyder said.

“We can gauge who are compelled to give and provide a way for them to connect,” she said. “It’s a convenient way to engage people, so that they are not just sitting on the sidelines.”

Final Take
Mr. Kittner

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

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