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The Almighty Buck Technology News

Digital Fundraising Booms For Haiti Relief 124

It seems that a recent digital fundraising drive for Haiti relief has stunned organizers at the Red Cross and White House. As of the last tally on Friday the campaign was at well over $8 million. "Earlier Thursday, when the Red Cross topped $3 million in text and social media donations — it hit nearly $40 million from all sources by late Thursday — spokesman Jonathan Aiken described it as 'a phenomenal number that's never been achieved before. People text up to three times at 10 bucks a pop,' Aiken said. 'You're talking about roughly 300,000 people actually spontaneously deciding, "I can spare $10 for this." And that's remarkable.' As of late Thursday, more than half of all donations to the Red Cross's Haiti relief effort had been received online, according to a news release.
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Digital Fundraising Booms For Haiti Relief

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  • well done, humans. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by antimatt ( 782015 ) <> on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:03PM (#30783858) Homepage

    it seems i may have underestimated you.

    • These are the things that restore a few bits of my faith in humanity. I work a help desk job so I go up and down on my faith but these stories always give it a boost and make me wish a "reboot" of the world that much less.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by david.given ( 6740 )

      $40 million dollars is a lot of money, and will do a great deal of good in Haiti. It's great that people are willing to donate to help people --- goodness knows they need it, and we can all spare it.

      But to put matters into perspective, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is spending that amount every three and a half hours (based on the Congressional Research Service figure of $2 billion a week [], which comes out to about $12 million an hour).

    • I think you are lying.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:04PM (#30783874) Homepage
    It is easier to get 4 million people to give $10 then it is to get 4,000 people to give $10,000. But it takes a wide spread publicity campaign, which the networks are giving away for free. By the way, if every person in the world sends me 1 penny (just ONE penny) via paypal to me at gurps_npc (at), then I will be very happy.
    • It's not just the amount (though that's part of it). Technology is allowing people to give easily at the very moment that they're seized with the urge to help. Used to be you'd have to go find your checkbook, a stamp, look up an address to send to, etc... which requires a sustained intention that lasts longer than the emotional impulse. Now you just text HAITI to 90999 and instantly satisfy your desire to do something. That makes a huge difference in turning noble motivations into action.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MindPrison ( 864299 )

      By the way, if every person in the world sends me 1 penny (just ONE penny) via paypal to me at ***lotsofburpspaypalaccount***, then I will be very happy.

      If everyone sends ANYONE a penny via paypal - paypal will be happier than you.

    • By the way, if every person in the world sends me 1 penny (just ONE penny) via paypal to me at gurps_npc (at), then I will be very happy.


      Your payment for $0.01 USD to has been sent.

  • Is there a way to follow all this money closely. One slip up in mismanagement and this phenomenon is history.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dave562 ( 969951 )

      Yes there is a way to follow the money. I'm 95% certain that the Red Cross is still using Raisers Edge to track their fund raising. It's a trivial matter to generate a campaign report that details who gave the money and what fund it went to. As far as tracking it from the fund to actual recipient, I think you're going to find that it gets wasted in the same way most charitable donations get wasted. Well over 50% of the money gets consumed in administrative overhead.

      • by nairnr ( 314138 )
        I call Bull Shit... If you take a look at one example [] it details the administration expenses as 6% of fundraising. True that is one chapter, but saying 50% of donated money goes to administration is totally unfounded.
      • by psithurism ( 1642461 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:26PM (#30784192)

        I think you're going to find that it gets wasted in the same way most charitable donations get wasted. Well over 50% of the money gets consumed in administrative overhead.

        The redcross is not most charities; they have a very good reputation for low overhead. Katrina lost only 9% of your donation to overhead: []. The red cross is one of the few charities I still donate to because of their low overhead costs.

        And GP, the red cross has been around since before 1900 and whatever slip ups they might be accused of, people are still donating.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          If they won't take my blood they can't have my money. Apparently anyone who has spent 6+ months in Europe has a level of culture too high for the average American to deal with during a transfusion.

          That and their CEO makes $565,000/year, plus they spend about 11% of their intake on overhead and took a $100 million government bailout.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Phoenix666 ( 184391 )

        I run the Interactive department for one of the key non-profits involved in this effort. We've been working around the clock since the earthquake to set up online donations, informational pages, disaster-coordination tools like, and mobile giving. 100% of the money is going to Haiti, starting tonight (as credit card transactions have cleared.) No one is taking "administrative fees."

        • Mod parent up! However, while I trust Red Cross and other serious institutions, I am a little bit skeptical about the use of the money. To be more precise: when the resource is given to local authorities. Living in a developing country, I tired of seeing money and othe donations vanishing in all levels of local administration. This seems to be especially true during the "reconstruction" stage after disaster, when it is easier to hide corruption in false contracts with contractors.
          • Really, one of the first news is that the Presidential Palace was destroyed.

            For all practical matters it seems like Haiti has stopped having a functioning government (and no, I know that the demise of the Palace would not necessarily imply the collapse of government, but I am using it as a symbol, before you wise asshats point this out...).

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Uh, most 501c3's operate with an overhead between 5 and 15% with a total average of 13.6% according to this [] paper I found with a quick Google. The Red Cross appears to have higher than average expenses at 18% of funds raised, but only ~10% of total expenses (non-donations account for the discrepancy) according to this [].
      • While it is true that most charities waste a lot of cash 50% is high. It is ALSO true that it is fairly easy to get a report on charities and figure out how much money they waste. Check the internet, and I see a Forbes report. As per Forbes, the average charity wastes 16% of it's cash on overhead. The redcross wastes 9%.
      • by dave562 ( 969951 )

        As numerous people have pointed out, the 50% figure was way off base. I was just eluding to the point that just because the Red Cross sends ## million dollars of aid to Haiti doesn't mean that the Haitian's are really getting anywhere close to the full 100% of those millions.

        Administrative overhead isn't the only drain on a donation. There are huge logistical costs involved in just about any sort of relief effort. Sending $10 worth of food to a place like Haiti might end up costing $100 once you include

    • by Itninja ( 937614 )
      I assure you that someone, somewhere is getting rich(er) from millions of 'administrative costs'. That's why I never give money to any charitable organization that has a salaried staff. You need people to do the job of course. But they should be given room & board, a small living stipend for basic expenses, and never, ever, have their income determined as a percentage of the take.

      I've seen posting on Craigslist for positions with non-profits paying 50K a year or more. Not exactly a towering wage to be
      • by xirusmom ( 815129 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:37PM (#30784344)

        So, my question to you is: Can you volunteer full time, half time? Specially right know, who can afford to leave their jobs for weeks to go to Haiti to volunteer full time?
        10% overhead is a very reasonable figure if we cannot bother to get our butts out of the couch and go there ourselves.

        • by Itninja ( 937614 )
          I could do full time if I got a place to sleep, food to eat, and a little money for personal items. The only thing that keeps me here currently are the two small children I am responsible for. But most of the childless folks in my peer group did exactly that during Katrina: they quit their jobs and spent a year+ volunteering. I donated quote a bit of money to them because I knew they were not doing for the money. There is no reason to think they won't do the same thing for Haiti; that's just the type of peo
          • So do I. And that is the reason I am happy to donate money as long as the organization use it wisely.
            There are a lot of NGOs who do a great job even, if they are paying some of their people. And working for one of them is usually a big pay cut from what one would get on private companies, so you will get committed people even if you are paying them a salary.
            Of course, there are the ones with 50% overhead as well as scammers, but that is our job as donors, to do a decent research before giving any money.

      • by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:42PM (#30784408)
        Charitable organizations, like any organization, need permanent staff to operate efficiently. You might get college kids to work for you over the summer for nothing but room and board, but no one will work for you on any kind of long-term basis for that. If you want long-term employees, particularly skilled employees, you have to pay for them. Sure, they might work for you for less than they could get in the private sector (and many do), but they still need money to feed their own families.

        Saying you refuse to give to any charities because there may be some amount of waste in them is just a way for you to rationalize your own selfishness. The fact is these organizations do far more good than any of us would be capable of or willing to do on our own. Because we won't or can't go out and dig new wells in Africa or help rebuild houses in Haiti or any of the other things these charities do, we give money to them to help them do it instead. They in turn hire people who know how to do this stuff in the most effective and efficient way possible.
      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:44PM (#30784438) Journal
        That may or may not be an especially good idea.

        There are definitely "charities" that, even if not total scams, spend far too much on paying their CEOs and executive directors and so forth, and sending them on important fact finding missions to poor(but pleasantly sunny) places. You definitely want to avoid those.

        However, the point of a charity is not to assemble the greatest concentration of self-sacrificing moral goodness available; but to turn donations(in dollars or in kind) into results that match the stated goal of the charity. The measure of a charity's efficiency, and thus its worth as a possible donation recipient, is determined by how efficiently it does so. There are most likely some cases where volunteers are, in fact, the most efficient means. There are others where expensive experts are, in all likelihood, the most efficient.

        You donate to a charity because you want your money to effect its goals, whether the goals are pulling people out of the rubble, vaccinating children, reducing unplanned pregnancies, filing FOIA requests, or whatever. Why judge them on how they distribute their resources, rather than on how efficiently they achieve their results?
      • There is less waste when you give to non-profits who have salaried employees, because they know what they're doing. It is far more wasteful when you are relying on volunteers who may or may not show up, there are no defined divisions of labor, there are no communications systems, etc. That's what happened after the tsunami, which didn't have the non-profit infrastructure, and most of the food and supplies that were donated rotted at the ports and airports because there were none of what you called 'highly

      • I assure you that someone, somewhere is getting rich(er) from millions of 'administrative costs'. That's why I never give money to any charitable organization that has a salaried staff.

        Agreed. That's why I'm giving all of my money to Scientology, where they make recruits work for free. Zero overhead, hard to beat that!

    • by Bertie ( 87778 )

      Some of that money's going to be wasted, you need to accept this. It's utter chaos out there and the people that need help the most are not always going to be the ones that get it first, simply because it's harder to get it to them. There are going to be warehouses full of supplies with nobody to distribute them. Somewhere else there will be people ready to give out aid parcels but their supplies won't have turned up. That's just the nature of the beast. Relief efforts like this are really hard and nec

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Small Dog Electronics, an Apple Specialist (and a darn fine one at that) matched customer donations, up to $200 per customer, and will be sending over $20,000 to Doctors Without Borders in the coming days! Check them out, Good people.

  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <> on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:10PM (#30783950)
    While I can certainly agree with donating to charity to help people who have hit unexpected hard times, the root cause of the scale of the crisis is the sheer fact that the country lives in pre-industrial conditions under an oppressive, corrupt government [], which ultimately means that massive numbers of people are living in concentrated areas, in buildings unfit for handling disasters. An earthquake of the exact same magnitude - or greater - in an equally populated area of the US, would have suffered a fraction of the casualties. So ultimately, the cure to their woes is not foreign aid, but more individual freedom, less government corruption, and the development of industry and improvement in living standards, which will culminate in safer buildings and residences.
    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      Dude, it's the poorest place in the hemisphere, the freaking presidential palace collapsed for gods sake, there IS no money to support proper building standards. The only areas largely unaffected anywhere near Port au Prince were the hills where the houses were basically sitting directly on bedrock, any soil that could undergo liquification did so and basically none of the buildings were anchored to the bedrock since that's very expensive.
    • You're absolutely right, but it's not that clear-cut. An analogy can be drawn to Africa where giving countries food and water doesn't solve any of the root problems, and can even foster dependencies, making the root cause even worse. Still, the inexorable wall every organization or individual has to face is that there's no point fixing the long run if everyone is going to die of starvation and lack of medical care within the week. Sure, we'd all like to change their government, build infrastructure, and

    • by Chineseyes ( 691744 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:18PM (#30784842)
      I will get modded to hell for this but as someone who is of Haitian decent and has family there right now the true cause of the corruption is bribery from states, corporations and even the IMF. The rice riots are a perfect example [] When the IMF loaned much needed money to Haiti it came with requirements that they open the country to "Free Trade" (Many Haitian politicians got their palms greased in this deal then left the country) when that happened American corporations flooded the market with cheap food which sounds great at first but when you consider the fact that the majority of the population made its living as farmers it doesn't sound so great. Farmers either lost their businesses or were forced into what amounted to virtual slavery for corporations who conveniently had money to lend them in their hour of need as long as they grew the crops (which were largely inedible) that the corporations wanted. Now you say "It all worked out great the farmers now have jobs, everything worked out for all parties!"

      WRONG, the corporations paid the farmers pathetic prices for their crops because they were desperate and with agriculture being the only means of earning a living everyone in the country turned to farming, they tore down every tree in site in order to use every bit of land so they could earn enough just to survive. The worst part about this happened much later, with large areas of land in Haiti virtually treeless due to over-farming, Haiti got pounded by hurricanes three years in a row. With no trees to hold the ground into place when there was flooding large areas of land simply washed away killing thousands.

      If the world really wants to help Haiti we need to do three things....

      1.) Forgive much of Haiti's debt
      2.) Lift all of the ridiculous restrictions that came with the debt
      3.) Restrict foreign corporations and states from meddling in the country's politics
    • I agree. Poverty is a due to a mindset of not respecting property. You get out of poverty by working to create things of value (wealth) and having a mentality where you don't steal or destroy wealth. But I have no idea how you can teach that to people. I have the same problem with the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan. We are smart enough in this country not to let our military run the country and to make our government as weak as possible. But then we want to install a powerful government in these other cou
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by BearRanger ( 945122 )
      I beg to differ with part of your claim. All parts of the US are not equally prepared for an earthquake. A large earthquake on the New Madrid fault anywhere near St. Louis or Memphis will likely result in mass casualties, in spite of efforts in recent years to improve building standards. Those old, historic and largely brick downtown sections will be most vulnerable. And let's face it, it's not the number of casualties that trigger the charitable response anyway, although that's a contributing factor.
      • Flamebait? Seriously? Just mentioning divisive figures by name is not reason enough to make a post inflammatory. Oh well, moderation is an imperfect process...
    • Suppose your dog is really really sick. It's hopeless. He's not going to get any better, and he's in a lot of pain. What do you do?

      If it's not right to leave a dog suffering like that, how can it be right for a country?

      Depending on how we put Haiti down, we might even get rid of the invasive species and then reboot the ecosystem. It could be a nice place in 100 years.

    • "The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules; it is a philosophy... and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."
      - Captain Picard (TNG: "Symbiosis")

    • But there is a context prior to that.

      When Haiti became independent, the French embargoed the country and eventually managed to wrestle a commitment from the country to pay for their freedom. In my country we call that blackmailing, I don't know how you call it. Haiti was paying that money as late as the middle of last century.

      Then the cleptocrats Duvaliers (father and son, read about them, fucking bastards) ruled the country thanks to their impeccable credentials as anti Communists (guess which country was

  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:10PM (#30783956) Homepage Journal

    I donated to Mercy Corps the old fashioned way, by entering a credit card number into a website.

    Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin has posted some interesting stuff on Boing Boing. It seems that enough of the high-techie infrastructure survived to allow people to keep in touch and look for lost relatives:

    The internet is a vital form of communication, as are cellphones—when they work—and she is seeing people in Haiti using social networking services as a means to try and locate missing loved ones within Haiti. The environment is so chaotic and roads so badly damaged that even in-country, mobile technology and web-based social networking services like Facebook are playing a vital role in the reconnection process. Don't assume that because Haiti is so poor, nobody's using the internet. She says cell service has been spotty, with certain carriers performing better than others. She connected to us using WIMAX, and the degree to which that service has performed during the disaster makes her a real believer in the promise of that particular wireless technology.

    AIDG's Catherine Lainé, live from Haiti (BB Video) []

    Update from Doctors Without Borders team in Port-au-Prince [] (Cool inflatable MASH-like field hospital!)

  • A second article states that it usually takes 90 days [] for the donation to be transferred.

    While the phone companies are looking at how to speed this up, am I the only one who believes that this would be a good way for some banks to earn back some credibility? It seems like they could give the Red Cross a 90 day loan to give them the money today, at 0%. Makes them look really good.
    • Isn't this the way the Red Cross typically works?

      They pay for the current disaster from their general fund, and donations go into the fund for the *next* disaster. That way, when something like this happens they don't have to wait for people to begin contributing before they can spring into action.

      I mean, I can understand your concern, but on the other hand-- if Red Cross had that money in-hand right now, would they be able to do more than they are already doing? I'd wager they're more limited by the inacce

    • It would make them look good but they aren't going to do it because they don't need to look good. They don't give a rat's ass about anything except next quarter's margin.

    • A second article states that it usually takes 90 days [] for the donation to be transferred.

      While the phone companies are looking at how to speed this up, am I the only one who believes that this would be a good way for some banks to earn back some credibility? It seems like they could give the Red Cross a 90 day loan to give them the money today, at 0%. Makes them look really good.

      Forget the loan with 0% interest, how about the banks match the amount, dollar for dollar?

  • If people were willing to vote for American Idol, they would probably be willing to donate to AID using the exact same services.

    I think it was just a matter of not being able to pledge money through your phone so effortlessly and efficiently. Giving your bank account info to some aid organization over the phone was more expensive and time consuming. Plus they take money monthly and not everyone wants to cover Red Cross' Paycheck unless they are actively working on an emergency like this one.

    So now what excu

    • Exactly. It's the same reason why people started to buy music online a lot once it became convenient to do so. Ditto for the popularity of services such as Steam, etc..

      In general, if you make parting with one's money as easy as a few clicks / button presses, you tap directly into "impulse spending", driven by emotion of the moment. I've been reading about the consequences of the earthquake in a newspaper at lunch, saw the photos and the estimated death toll, and then noticed the phone number for SMS donatio

  • Donate and Help the Médecins Sans Frontières International MSF []
    Or Unicef, so many children need help at this moment... So many are either alone or hurt. []
  • Since this is a charitable donation, in the U.S., is there some way to get it counted off taxes? It is via phone, how do you show those records?
    • Does your donation represent 1% of your annual income? If so, then I guess you could use your phone bill, printed out. That said, I have a hard time believing someone only makes $1,000 a year or less would have a cell phone.
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Huh, I just add up all my charitable donations and add it to the appropriate line on whatever schedule it is put on. I keep all my receipts for such things in case I get audited so I would just keep a copy of the phone bill showing the donation. There is no requirement that the donation total 1% of your income.
        • by wbav ( 223901 )
          That must be my misunderstanding then. I thought all deductions required passing 1% of your annual income. I may be wrong though, it has been nearly a year since I looked at the tax rules.
          • by afidel ( 530433 )
            If your contributions are less than $500 in noncash value or any amount in cash you use 1040 schedule A, otherwise you use Form 8283. For any single contribution over $250 you need "a contemporaneous written acknowledgment" though a receipt should satisfy that requirement for a cash donation.
    • Print off your statement.

    • I don't know how you guys have it set up in the States, but here in Canada, the non-profits who set up a similar donate-by-SMS scheme have also made a website where you can go and print out a receipt, specifically for tax purposes. You may have something like that as well.

  • Red Cross is notorious for only spending what they feel they need to. In other disasters only 10% of the money donated ever reached the actual disaster, and of that, there was a huge overhead.

    Sorry folks, just not worth it. Do a little digging first, there are MUCH better charities out there that have a LOT more (or all!) of the money you donate going directly to Haiti.

    Yo Grark

    • by KenSeymour ( 81018 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:17PM (#30784826)

      These people seem to disagree with you. To get on this list, 75% or
      more has to go to program services. []

    • by b0bby ( 201198 )

      As an example of an alternative, I gave to They get an excellent Charity Navigator rating.

      As for the Red Cross, the fact that they only spend what they think they need to is not necessarily bad in my book. It means they'll have money & supplies for the lower profile problems they tackle. If they can't efficiently use all they are given for a particular problem, I'd rather they don't waste it.

    • by Giranan ( 762783 )
      Citation needed, buddy. That's one huge accusation to make without something to back it up.
    • A lot of people donated to Red Cross after 9/11, but the only real logistical issue the had was a blood shortage due to the lack of long-term storage facilities: blood doesn't keep more than 40 days or so under typical storage conditions, so you really can't stock up.

      They wanted to use much of the money donated for the construction of cryogenic facilities and other infrastructure improvements to be better prepared for the next disaster, but unfortunately they had advertised that donating would be specifical

  • by sponga ( 739683 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:39PM (#30784360)

    At times like these it really makes you proud to be an American to see the great amount of donations going out even in this terrible economy and good to see people have sympathy for others.

    Donations by private Americans a lot of the time donate more than a lot of countries combined but make sure you donate to a reputable charity because online fraud is at an all time high after incidents like these.

    I have two family members who are R.N.'s and a neighbor on wait with the Orange County, CA disaster team, cash is one of the best things you can donate because it costs so much to transport the material.

    UPS is shipping anything for free under 50lbs
    $4 million so far donated to the Salvation Army by text
    $8 million donated to the state department by text
    and now I am sure the Red Cross will step it up with this

    • Anti-American troll coming in 3... 2... 1...
    • Proud to be human. Americans of course qualify too. But many countries are offering aid, even though the American media devotes little time to that fact. Check out the pictures in this CBC story for a brief sampling. []
      • by sponga ( 739683 )

        Yeah no doubt, especially the French for their quick response time as they had some of the first crews on the ground. But not much can be done until the U.S. military brings in the heavy hardware and they are the ones who have great majority of C-17's to transport cranes, generators, water purification, etc..

        Americans get a lot of crap around here and they seem to dwell on the bad news a lot around here, it just needs to be put into perspective that the U.S.A.F and Navy are the ones who will be doing the h

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would suggest that if you decided to donate money, do it thru Red Cross (which I choose), Unesco or any multinational organizations. Do not give it to embassies of the country, if they have asking for donations too. If you do, chances are that the money will not only not help the desperate people who need it, but will make even richer the usually corrupt local government.

  • Text 'haiti' to 90999

    I can't believe its not in the article or been edited to go in the summary. []

    Also this was on Colbert last night

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.