Texting help to Haiti

The challenges behind mobile donations to Haiti

Coming out of the ruin and devastation in Haiti, the ability to micro-donate via text message. Already, mobile donations have ecplipsed $20-million.

Here, Jim Manis, CEO of the Mobile Giving Foundation, the organization behind a bulk of text donation campaigns, explains some challenges with texting help to Haiti.

Many of the mobile campaigns are only in the U.S. Is your organization coordinating text donations in Canada?

The Mobile Giving Foundation has collaborated with various wireless operators in Canada to launch in September 2009 basically an extension of what we have in the States. Then we were able to launch a Haiti relief project with the Salvation Army quickly last week by texting HAITI to 45678. Then others followed.

Canada was a couple days behind the United States in starting mobile donations. What were the hurdles?

There are no hurdles, but just a couple different dynamics.

Because of the cross-border media, people in Canada try to text to a shortcode that’s been set up by wireless operators in the United States. That same shortcode may not be supporting that same charity in Canada.So we are learning a few lessons. One of those lessons is that in the event of a major disaster, as we’re seeing here, there’s a natural response to help.For example, when Wyclef Jean, of the Yele Foundation, one of the primary charitable foundations in Haiti, goes on CNN and says to support Haiti relief efforts text YELE to 501501, to make a $5 donation, that broadcast clearly goes to Canada.

When Canadians try to text to that shortcode, 501501, it doesn’t go to the Yele Foundation it goes somewhere else that has nothing to do with Haitian relief.

So the bit of the delay is to make sure we have Canadian relief efforts in place.
What is the solution then?
You’ll see shortcodes in Canada that we also use in the United States.
We are recognizing that some of these shortcodes need to be international in nature, to accommodate organizations such as the Clinton Foundation. Through Bell and Rogers and Telus, funds will go to a Canadian organization that is affiliated with the American one.
You have to abide not only by wireless technology, but also by tax laws of both countries. That’s the complexity we face internationally and that’s why you see a little bit of lagtime in Canada.
So in the time that Americans could text donations but Canadians couldn’t, what happened if you texted to, say, 501501?
We’ve made an arrangement with the owner of that shortcode so they have a message back for those who send the keyword HAITI, he’s redirecting them, telling them to donate to the Salvation Army.
Besides the delay in bringing mobile donations to Canada, is there a delay in getting the donations to the people in need in Haiti?
The normal process is that you make a pledge, and it appears on your phone bill. The consumer gets their phone bill on some set day in the month. If I make a pledge today, I might get my phone bill next week. If you make a pledge today, you might get your phone bill in 28-days. It’s a 30-day process to receive your bill, and carriers give you 30-days to pay your bill. So that’s a 60-day, standard process time.
With respect to Haiti relief, what you’re seeing is carriers understanding that the purpose of an emergency effort is to get funds into the hands of those who need it as soon as possible. So everybody is making a big effort to shrink that process time down. Each individual carrier is working to address that. We’ve spoken with major charities like Salvation Army. What they need is the pledge report. We give them that report every day. So that gives them the ability to plan and allocate resources.
So this should not be an issue for any consumer who wants to donate on a mobile device. You donate via text, you are going to add resources immediately. [rssbreak]
To make a text donation in Canada:

Text the word “Haiti” to 30333 to donate $5 to Plan Canada

Text the word “Hope” or “Monde” to 45678 to donate $5 to World Vision Canada

Text the word “CAHAITI” to 20222 to donate $5 to the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative

Text the word “Haiti” to 45678 to the Salvation Army in Canada

Text the word “Haiti” to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee.

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