Social Media, Text Messaging Bring in Record Donations for Haiti Relief Efforts

Social media and text messaging campaigns that make it easier for individuals to donate to a cause have helped international aid organizations raise large amounts of money in record time for Haiti earthquake relief efforts, Bloomberg.com reports.

As of mid-day Friday, the American Red Cross had raised $37 million to help victims of Tuesday evening's earthquake — surpassing the amounts it raised over a comparable period after Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami. And almost 20 percent of that — roughly $8 million — came through the organization's Text Haiti appeal, which allows mobile phone users to make a $10 donation to the organization via text message. According to Red Cross social-media manager Wendy Harman, Twitter and Facebook helped spread the word both about the appeal and other ways to donate to the organization's Haiti relief efforts.

Other groups that have had early success with such tools include Yéle Haiti, the charity run by Grammy Award-winning musician Wyclef Jean, which as of Thursday had raised $1 million through its text-messaging campaign, according to the New York Times, and Oxfam, which received about $55,300 (£34,000) via an embedded link in a YouTube video posted the day after the quake. Meanwhile, countless groups are posting news from the disaster zone to Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr — updates that are then being shared with or "retweeted" to an even larger audience.

"The level of tweeting and posting to Facebook is beyond anything we've ever seen before," said Harman. "We're turning to these cultural tools for good rather than just talking."

Jenna Wortham. "Burst of Mobile Giving Adds Millions in Relief Funds." New York Times 01/14/2010. Matthew Campbell. "Haiti Fundraising Speeds Up With Twitter, Facebook (Update1)." Bloomberg.com 01/15/2010.