* Mobile Giving Foundation has seen 10,000 texts/second
* Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile USA waiving texting fees
By Nicole Maestri
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 15 Cellphone users in the
United States have contributed more than $10 million to Haitian
earthquake relief through text messages in what is being hailed
as an unprecedented mobile response to a natural disaster.
The Mobile Giving Foundation called it a "mobile-giving
record" for funds raised for a single cause. Donations are
rising swiftly, it said, as former President Bill Clinton and
other elected officials take to the airways to urge the
American people to give.
Jim Manis, CEO of the foundation helping to manage
cellphone donations, said it was receiving up to 10,000 text
messages per second, he said. The foundation said more than $10
million has been donated.
Cellphone users can donate $5 to Haiti-born hip-hop
musician Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund by texting
the word "Yele" to 501501, or they can donate $10 to other
nonprofit organizations, such as the American Red Cross, by
texting the word "Haiti" to a specified number, like 90999.
The donation is charged to a user's cellphone bill.
The American Red Cross said that of the $37 million it has
raised for Haitian relief efforts, more than $8 million has
come via mobile phone users.
"It's unprecedented that we've received this amount," said
Nadia Pontif, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross.
The giving is also being fueled by the popularity of
websites like Facebook, where users are urging one another to
make donations easily using cellphones.
Wireless carriers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc (T.N), Sprint
(S.N) and T-Mobile USA have waived fees for customers wishing
to send mobile donations. Carriers are also letting users know
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
Manis said Mobile Giving is working with wireless carriers
to decrease the lag time between when a cellphone user makes a
donation and when the funds arrive at a charity. Donations can
take 90 days to be delivered to a charity.
"Every carrier is working through a solution to push those
funds out faster," Manis said.
U.N. disaster experts said at least 10 percent of housing
in the Haitian capital was destroyed, making about 300,000
homeless, but in some areas 50 percent of buildings were
destroyed or badly damaged. [ID:nN15213123]
The text message donations come as an increasing number of
corporations and celebrities announce aid for the devastated
country amid a clamor for help from victims of Tuesday's
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have donated $1 million from
their foundation to Doctors Without Borders, which has been
tending to victims of the quake.
Actor George Clooney will host a telethon on MTV next week
to raise funds for victims of the quake. The event will be
broadcast on all MTV Network channels on Jan. 22. Clooney is
expected to be joined by many pop music and movie stars.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York, editing by