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Red Cross Haiti campaign attracts 3M unique mobile donors

NEW YORK - The American Red Cross received donations for its Haiti earthquake relief campaign via SMS from 3 million unique donors, of which 20,000 opted in to receive ongoing email communications from the nonprofit organization.

The American Red Cross is used to harnessing online, print and broadcast media to raise funds for disaster relief, but the Haiti earthquakes showed that another channel was equally adept at winning quick response from donors: mobile, and specifically, SMS. Moderator Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, introduced the keynote speaker of the DMA?s Nonprofit Mobile Day.

?Last year around this time the American Red Cross put together a mobile team focused on disaster services and marketing, so when the earthquake in Haiti struck, it gave us an early edge,? said Jana McAndrew, manager of online fundraising at American Red Cross, Washington.

?We had incorporated mobile into our marketing and fundraising efforts, so we weren?t starting from scratch,? she said. ?We had already integrated mobile into our strategy planning and formulated our thought process on how to use mobile for fundraising, and that helped with our quick response to the Haiti earthquake.?

In addition to its SMS initiatives, the American Red Cross is in the process of mobile-optimizing its Web site and has launched campaign-specific applications (see story).

Why Haiti changed everything for mobile
Thanks to SMS-savvy consumers and support from partners, the Red Cross raised more than $32 million to help victims and survivors of the earthquakes that devastated this Caribbean nation (see story).

Incredibly, 95 percent of the consumers who texted in to the Haiti campaign were first-time donors to the American Red Cross, per Ms. McAndrew.

Many industry executives and analysts believe that the response to the Haiti disaster was the mobile giving tipping point (see story).

In fact, the success of the American Red Cross and other nonprofits organizations in fundraising and outreach via SMS in the wake of the Haiti earthquake showcased the power and potential of the mobile medium as a whole (see story).

While the American Red Cross ran a Text2Give mobile giving initiative in response to Hurricane Katrina, the organization received exponentially more mobile donations in response to Haiti.

?What changed from last year and the previous year compared to now is having millions of dollars coming through this channel,? Ms. McAndrew said. ?The explosion of mobile phones among the general public is obviously a huge factor.

?We expect that mobile giving will become an increasingly significant venue for raising funds, but mobile is also a key enabler of how we communicate with the public,? she said.

Texting opted-in donors
In addition to fundraising, SMS is invaluable as a communications channel that nonprofit organizations can use for outreach and CRM, to issue calls for volunteers and to collect data about their supporters.

Of the 3 million donors who contributed money to the American Red Cross via text message, 1.5 million got a call-to-action to follow the Red Cross on Twitter, while the other half got a text message asking them to opt-in to receive email updates.

Ms. McAndrew said that approximately 20,000 donors responded to the call-to-action by sending a text message with their email address, giving the Red Cross the go-ahead to contact them via that channel as well.

While SMS donations are currently capped at $10 per text, there is no limit to online donations.

?Capturing that additional contact information from this audience is key, because we?re going to use the email channel to convert them into repeat donors that hopefully give bigger gifts,? Ms. McAndrew said.

Click here to view the American Red Cross presentation

Picture this
Here are some pictures of Jana McAndrew, manager of online fundraising at the American Red Cross:

After Ms. McAndrew's sessions, Dan Butcher, associate editor at Mobile Marketer, interviewed her regarding the key takeaways of her presentation.

Here is a video of that interview: