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Text donations raise $7M for Red Cross Haiti effort

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Donations via text message raised $7 million for the American Red Cross's Haiti relief efforts as of 11 p.m. Thursday.

Soon after a 7.0-magnitude quake struck near capital city Port-au-Prince late Tuesday, the Red Cross mobilized fundraising efforts via social networking site Twitter. Just before midnight, @RedCross tweeted: "You can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in #haiti."

And so far a staggering 700,000 customers have done just that, across all wireless networks including AT&T (T, Fortune 500), Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), Sprint (S, Fortune 500) and T-Mobile.

"These are donors who are typically the hardest to reach: young people," said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. "They're reacting to something that affects them and realizing their few dollars can make a difference. Texting has opened up a whole new world for philanthropy."

Mobile giving isn't new, but it's been in the spotlight since the Haiti earthquake hit. In fact, the $5 million that's been raised so far by the Red Cross far exceeds the nearly $4 million that was donated to all charities by mobile texts in all of 2009, Nelson said.

Organizations including the ASPCA, Feed the Children and World Land Trust all have 5-digit numbers to which subscribers can text donations at any time.

Nelson said Verizon Wireless (VZ, Fortune 500) has a long-standing policy that it does not charge subscribers for texts to make charitable donations, and added that 100% of the donated funds are passed on to the Red Cross. T-Mobile also said its subscribers can text Haiti donations for free.

News reports earlier Thursday said AT&T (T, Fortune 500) was charging subscribers for their texts. But a spokesman said Thursday afternoon that the company had updated its systems in the morning to make texts sent to Haiti relief efforts free of charge, and that the change would cover those who donated yesterday.

On Thursday afternoon Sprint said it will continue to treat donation texts "like any other text message for now," but by that evening the company did an about face and said it would issue a waiver on text message fees for specific Haiti mobile giving donations. To top of page

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