Editor’s Note: Amy Gahran writes about mobile tech for CNN.com. She is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and media consultant whose blog, Contentious.com, explores how people communicate in the online age.
Disaster relief groups collect $43 million in donations via text after Haiti quake
Pew finds most donations were made on impulse, after coverage of disaster
Majority of donors did not follow relief and reconstruction efforts
Two years ago, a major earthquake struck near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. Up to 3 million people were killed, injured or displaced. In the wake of this disaster, aid flowed in via many channels – including, notably, individual donations sent via text message.
The Red Cross immediately launched a donate-by-text program, promoted heavily by the U.S. State Department and the mainstream media. Relief agencies collected $43 million in donations via text after Haiti quake – sent $10 at a time by texting the word “HAITI” to the shortcode 90999. (The donation appeared as a charge on donors’ phone bills.)
Who are these mobile givers? What motivated them to give, and did their donations to Haitian earthquake relief influence their future patterns of giving?
The Pew Internet and American Life Project on Wednesday released an in-depth study based on interviews with 863 people who sent donations to Haiti via text message.
Pew found that most of these donations were made on impulse – an immediate response to media coverage of the disaster, especially on television. For three-quarters of them, it was the first time they’d ever donated via text message. Only a third of them made additional text donations to Haitian earthquake relief.
By and large, these donors did not research this donation beforehand. Also, their interest in Haiti’s recovery waned quickly: More than half of the donors interviewed reported that they have not followed Haitian relief and reconstruction efforts much or at all since making their donation.
Still, their willingness to donate to disaster relief by text did increase and that has benefited the victims of later disasters.
According to Pew, “More than half of the donors surveyed have made text message contributions to other disaster relief efforts since their Haiti donation. Two in five of these donors (40%) texted a donation to groups helping people living in Japan following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, 27% texted a donation to groups helping people living in the U.S. Gulf region following the 2010 BP oil spill, and 18% texted a donation to groups helping victims of the 2011 tornadoes in the U.S. Taken together, 56% of Haiti mobile givers in our sample made a contribution to at least one of these events.”
These donors reported also making donations by other channels: online web forms, by mail, and in person. But, interestingly, their least favorite donation channel was over a voice phone call.