Disaster Relief Brings Mobile Payments to the Forefront

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Disaster Relief Brings Mobile Payments to the Forefront

The Haiti relief effort demonstrated just how much mobile phones have become an integral part of our everyday world in a way that nobody will ever forget: with the sending of a quick text message, we’re saving lives.

Nearly 2.5 million people have texted $10 pledges for Haitian relief to the American Red Cross in seven days, the largest number ever to take action for a mobile giving campaign, generating approximately $24 million in donations — almost 25 percent of all Red Cross donations for Haiti.

Sure, it’s nice to have an app that can tell us sports scores, find the local McDonald’s or to post to our Facebook pages, but to help someone in need with a simple SMS has changed consumers’ view of their mobile device into something that can truly make a difference. “People are increasingly doing more than just talking on their mobile phones,” said James Eberhard, chairman of Denver-based Mobile Accord, which developed the mGive mobile-giving platform (www.mgive.com) on which the donations are made. “Since it is one of the few items people always carry with them, the power of mobile giving is hard to overestimate.”

All of the funds raised using Mobile Accord’s mGive platform will go to the Red Cross to help those hit by this natural disaster. All wireless carriers partnering with mGive donate network and billing services, and mGive waived monthly fees to the Red Cross. In addition, mGive is working with wireless carriers that have agreed to accelerate payments to the Red Cross.

One incidental result of this is that American consumers will have a greater acceptance of the potential of mobile devices to pay for things. In other countries, consumers have been using their cell phones to buy products in stores or even at vending machines. And here in the United States, contactless payments are everywhere. (Indeed, here in New York City, you can pay for your taxi ride, check out at the local Duane Reade or even buy a soda at my office vending machine with contactless payments.)

But, for some reason, U.S. consumers haven’t yet made the jump to using their phones as contactless payment devices, and a lot of that has to do with not viewing them as payment devices. Not surprisingly, mobile device manufacturers have not moved on installing such technology because of this.

Twenty-four million dollars later, it’s hard not to make that association.

For those who want to donate to the Red Cross effort in Haiti, a simple text message contributes $10 to the relief effort, billed to the donor’s mobile bill. How to contribute:

Text the word HAITI to 90999 to give $10. When prompted, reply with YES to confirm your one-time gift. The $10 one-time donation will appear on your next mobile bill, and receipts can be printed at mGive.org/receipt.

Other charities that are raising funds for Haiti and are supported by the mGive platform include:

•  Compassion International: Text DISASTER to 90999 to give $10

•  Family Health International: Text FHI to 90999 to give $5

•  FAMU: Text RELIEF to 50555 to give $5

•  Florida Hospital: Text MISSION to 90999 to give $5

•  Friends of the World Food Program: Text FRIENDS to 90999 to give $5

•  Leon H. Sullivan Foundation: Text SUMMIT to 90999 to give $5

•  Rotary Foundation: Text ROTARY to 90999 to give $5

•  United Nations Foundation: Text CERF to 90999 to give $5

•  United Way: Text HAITI to 864833 to give $5