Text Messages Raise $11 Million For Haiti

Times have definitely changed. Instead of sending a check or dropping a few extra bucks in a bucket to contribute to a natural disaster relief effort, U.S. cellphone users are sending text message contributions. In what is being hailed as an unprecedented mobile response to a natural disaster, U.S. cellphone users have donated more than $11 million to Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

Wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have waived fees for customers who want to send mobile donations. These carriers are also assuring customers that they are not taking a cut of the donations. "There are no text messaging fees and 100 percent of the $10 donation goes to the American Red Cross," Verizon said in a statement.

There are a number of organizations that are accepting donations via text message. By texting the word "Yele" to 501501 for instance, you can donate $5 to Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. You can also donate to the American Red Cross by texting the word "Haiti" to a specified number, like 90999. The donation is then charged to your wireless phone bill.

To date, the American Red Cross said it has received more than $9 million in donations from more than 900,000 users. Spokeswoman Nadia Pontif said, "It's unprecedented that we've received this amount." The Mobile Giving Foundation said the donations have set a "mobile-giving record" for funds raised for a single cause. According to the Mobile Giving Foundation, more than $11 million has been donated.

Jim Manis, chief executive officer of the foundation helping to manage cellphone donations said it can take up to 90 days for donations to be delivered to a charity, however. Manis said Mobile Giving is working with the wireless carriers to help decrease this lag time between when a donation is made via cellphone and when the charity receives the funds. "Every carrier is working through a solution to push those funds out faster," Manis said.

According to U.N. disaster experts, at least 10% of housing in the Haitian capital was destroyed, leaving about 300,000 homeless. In some areas of the country, 50% of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.