'Text to Haiti' Campaign Introduced Mobile Giving to Donors, Study Finds

Most cell phone users who have used their phones to donate to charity were introduced to mobile giving by the Text to Haiti campaign, which was launched in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake in that country, a new study from the Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center and Harvard University's Berkman Center for the Internet and Society finds.

Produced in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight and mGive foundations, the study, Real Time Charitable Giving (25 pages, PDF), surveyed more than 860 donors to the Text to Haiti campaign and found that, for most, their donation to Haiti earthquake relief efforts was the first donation they had made via text message. The study also found that mobile donors gave after very little deliberation, and that 42 percent encouraged their friends and family members to give as well. Of those who encouraged a friend or family member to donate, 75 percent did so by talking with others in person, while 34 percent sent a text message and 21 percent posted about the campaign on a social networking site.

While the survey respondents said they employ a wide range of methods to donate to causes that are important to them, most prefer text messaging (25 percent), followed by online channels (24 percent), regular mail (22 percent), and in-person (19 percent). The survey also found that while four out of ten mobile donors to Haiti relief efforts have followed ongoing reconstruction efforts in the country closely, 80 percent of respondents said they had not received any follow-up communications from the organization to which they gave.

"These findings have vast implications for nonprofits, other cause-related charities, and even philanthropists," said Berkman Center research director Rob Faris. "The age of mobile connectivity is creating a new class of networked donors who learn quickly about tragedies that occur anywhere on the planet and respond immediately."