Mobile giving played an especially prominent role during the aftermath of the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, as individual donors contributed an estimated $43 million to the assistance and reconstruction efforts using the text messaging feature on their cell phones.
Charitable donations from mobile phones have grown more common in recent years. Two thirds (64%) of American adults now use text messaging, and 9% have texted a charitable donation from their mobile phone.
And these text donors are emerging as a new cohort of charitable givers. The first-ever, in-depth study on mobile donors—which analyzed the “Text to Haiti” campaign after the 2010 earthquake—finds that these contributions were often spur-of-the-moment decisions that spread virally through friend networks. Three quarters of these donors (73%) contributed using their phones on the same day they heard about the campaign, and a similar number (76%) say that they typically make text message donations without conducting much in-depth research beforehand.
Yet while their initial contribution often involved little deliberation, 43% of these donors encouraged their friends or family members to give to the campaign as well. In addition, a majority of those surveyed (56%) have continued to give to more recent disaster relief efforts—such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan—using their mobile phones.
These are among the findings of a new study produced by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society, in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the mGive Foundation.