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Red Cross SMS appeal for Haiti raises $1M in single day

January 14, 2010

Mobile relief

Mobile relief

The American Red Cross will have raised almost $1 million in the 24 hours since it issued an SMS call-to-action for victims of this week’s earthquake in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The nonprofit has kicked off a campaign yesterday across several media vehicles, including taxi cabs and television news broadcasts, asking consumers to donate $10 via an SMS message. MGive is powering the campaign that has already set the record of making Jan. 13 the biggest day in the history of mobile giving nationwide.

“Mobile giving is a fast and convenient way for people to make a donation that can help save the day for people in need and this effort has proven to be especially popular in social media such as Twitter,” said Jana Waterworth-McAndrew, manager of online fundraising and individual giving at the American Red Cross, Washington.

“The American Red Cross is deeply grateful to be the beneficiary of this opportunity created by the State Department and powered by Mobile Accord and the mGive Foundation,” she said.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters. It supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood, teaches lifesaving skills, provides international humanitarian aid, and supports military members and their families.

Text relief
Consumers who text the keyword HAITI to the short code 90999 receive this reply from the Red Cross: “To confirm your $10 donate to Red Cross Int’l Response Fund reply with YES. Reply HELP for help or visit”

After confirming with a YES text, the following SMS is received: “Thanks! $10 charged to your phone bill for Red Cross Int’l Relief. Reply HELP for help or Visit Reply STOP to cancel. Msg&Data Rates May Apply.”

Within seconds, the donor gets another text message: “Reply YES for Haiti Relief Alerts Up to 1 msg/day. Info? Text HELP, to end txt STOP. Msg&data rates may apply.”

So, when the YES message is sent, the Red Cross replies, “Thanks! You are subscribed to Haiti Relief Alerts. Up to 1 msg/day.Info? Txt HELP, to end txt STOP. Msg&data rates may apply.”

Both the White House blog and the United States’ Department of State blog posted updates with the call-to-action urging consumers to donate to the Red Cross via SMS.

“By accepting donations through the mobile sphere, the Red Cross can reach a wider audience during times of disaster when support is needed immediately,” Ms. Waterworth-McAndrew said.

“With a disaster of this magnitude we are targeting anyone who is able to provide relief,” she said. “Over time, we believe that mobile giving will provide our organization an opportunity to connect with a new generation of supporters.”

Of the $1 million in SMS donations raised yesterday since the 90999 short code was re-activated, Verizon Wireless customers alone accounted for more than $300,000.

Giving on the go
With mobile giving, consumers wishing to aid in the relief effort are not limited to writing a check and putting their gift in the mail. Additionally, mobile giving lets consumers bypass the need for immediate computer access and entering in credit card information.

The International Rescue Committee is also running an SMS campaign to raise funds for the disaster relief in Haiti.

Consumers can text the keyword HAITI to short code 25383 to give $5. The donation goes to the Haiti Relief Fund.

Like the Red Cross’ campaign, the $5 will be added to the consumer’s monthly phone bill.

In October the Red Cross Blood Services, South Central Division, implemented a mobile media program letting people sign up for text-message alerts on blood inventory levels, receive educational information about donating blood, make their next donation appointment or locate the nearest blood drive.

Donors can subscribe to the Red Cross SMS club by texting the keyword REDCROSS to the short code 42227 or by registering at (see story).

The Red Cross has used social media tools such as Twitter to spread the call-to-action.

“We are very grateful for the strong public interest in this mobile giving effort to help the people of Haiti,” Ms. Waterworth-McAndrew said.

Mickey Alam Khan contributed reporting for this story.

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Chirs Harnick is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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3 Responses to “Red Cross SMS appeal for Haiti raises $1M in single day”

  1. John Bauersfeld Says:

    Great to see Text Message Marketing being put to a good cause. Nice job Red Cross. The William Clinton Foundation also has a Text-To-Donate campaign:

    Text “HAITI” to “20222” and $10 will be given to the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti Relief Fund.

    The Haitians need all the help they can get, so please donate.

  2. Anthony Says:

    Great to see people stepping up to Haiti, and the mobile community innovating. The donations are sorely needed by the Non-Profits, and mobile is a great way to make giving easy.

    There are a number of other worthwhile organizations also running Mobile programs to benefit Haiti:

    International Rescue Committee (text HAITI to 25383)
    OXFam (text OXFAM to 30644)
    CARE (text HAITI to 30644)
    Catholic Relief Services (text RELIEF to 30644)

    Some of these organizations may not have the marketing might of the Red Cross, but they are also on the ground doing heroic work, and could use everyone’s support.

  3. Elwood Green III Says:

    The concept of mobile donations gives people the means to urgently respond to tragic events like Haiti. My only hope is that carriers are able to quickly deliver the proceeds to the foundations. Are you familiar with this process? Can you approximate a timeline? Thanks! I donated… just curious.

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