Relief money via texting surpasses $4 million

In $10 increments, more than $4 million have been raised for Red Cross when people text the word "Haiti" to number 90999, according to a Verizon Wireless spokesman.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
More than $4 million has been raised for the Red Cross by people texting the word "Haiti" to number 90999. MGive

January 14 could be the biggest day for mobile giving to date, as word that texting "Haiti" to number 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross went viral via Twitter, Facebook, and news reports. (Facebook reports that its users have been posting more than 1,500 status updates a minute containing the word Haiti.)

In $10 increments, more than $4 million has been raised via the MGive Foundation's Haiti campaign, according to a Verizon Wireless spokesman. The campaign was set up with with the U.S. State Department and Red Cross late Tuesday night. While the total had reached $2 million Wednesday night, it climbed to $3 million overnight and surpassed $4 million Thursday morning--a number that could continue climbing steadily for days.

"Today is a huge day for mobile giving," Tony Aiello, chief executive of MGive, told The New York Times. "We are experiencing a tipping point."

MGive offers a variety of mobile giving campaigns, including texting "DOB" to the same number to donate to Doctors Without Borders and "need" to Neediest Kids, and has waived its typical licensing fee to the Red Cross so that 100 percent of every donation actually makes its way to the relief organization.

"Catastrophic fund-raising is different from the everyday fund-raising that we help facilitate," Aiello says. "This is a huge tragedy, and we simply hope to help provide relief."

According to MGive's Haiti FAQ, most mobile carriers allow only two $10 donations to be made a month, and users will be billed for these donations by their carriers, not MGive. Meanwhile, MGive's 90999 HAITI campaign only works for U.S. mobile phone numbers.

Receipts of donations can be both confirmed and printed at http://mgive.org/receipt/ by entering the mobile phone number used to make one's text donation. The MGive Foundation, established just four months ago, says it is responsible for raising more than 90 percent of all funds to date through the mobile giving channel.

Haitian-born singer Wyclef Jean, who runs the charity organization Yele, has also set up a mobile donation campaign, through which people can donate $5 when they text "Yele" to number 501501, or more when they donate online.

Update, 4:08 p.m. PST: Facebook has created a disaster relief page on which users can keep track of the latest information regarding the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, as well as relief organizations that are helping the cause. The page utilizes the Causes application on Facebook to help users donate as well as share information on relief organizations that can help.

"We want Global Relief on Facebook to serve as a collaborative resource for individuals, nonprofits, governments, and industry to raise awareness for those in need around the world," marketing and outreach director Randi Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook's blog."

Harrison Hoffman of the CNET Blog Network contributed to this report.