Hope For Haiti

The compassion and generosity displayed following the earthquakes in Haiti has been remarkable. We’ve seen this before many times – a natural or man-made disaster inspires the very best from inside us. But, for me, Haiti feels different. In large part, social media is to thank for its uniqueness. Social media has given us instant updates. It’s given us the ability to make an impact, to play a part in the recovery effort, immediately. Through a text messaging campaign, The American Red Cross has raised more than $8 million as of January 28. “The needs are so tremendous in Haiti, and we are honored that people continue to give to the American Red Cross. Raising this amount of money, $10 at a time, is a true testament to the American spirit,” said Susan Watson, Director of Marketing and Visibility for the Red Cross. The giving hasn’t stopped with the Red Cross. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has a text message program in place for Americans and for Canadians as well. iTunes, Threadless and Tom’s Shoes are also donating their proceeds to Haiti relief.

An amazing case study has emerged; its main message: social media has made the world smaller. It connects people from around the globe in real time. Because of social media, people, everywhere, have been able to instantly do something to help in Haiti. From on-the-ground relief efforts to gestures of hope, the world reacted in a new way. Social media’s role was critical to delivering information about the damage and relief efforts. The world was counting on platforms like Facebook and Twitter for updates. Within minutes of the quake, photos and videos were shared on Flickr and YouTube. According to Nielsen, nearly 3% of all blog posts have something to do with the Haitian quake or relief efforts, with Twitter posts as the leading source. Nielsen says the Twitter account for the Red Cross has gained more than 10,000 followers since the earthquake, compared to 50 to 100 per day in the days prior. Is this outreach a glimpse into the future of fundraising, relief efforts and marketing?


  1. Sarah

    My mom and I were talking about the Red Cross texting campaign the other day. We both thought it was brilliant because $10 within the reach of most people. When organizations start asking for money, people may only have $10 to give, and they don’t think it will make a difference because its only $10. This campaign reaches out to those people, and they give because the amount asked is within their reach. Working with non-profits, they’re always trying to come up with creative ways to fundraise and get people involved, or even just to raise awareness. Facebook and Twitter have really opened the doors for non-profit organizations to get their message out in new and creative ways, and constant updates make the public remember that message every day. Most organizations we work with are using these tools to stay connected, and we’ve only heard positive feedback.

  2. Katie

    I totally agree, Sarah. Think it will be a case study that other non-profits will study.

    For anyone that will be in Little Rock this weekend, there is an Arkansas Benefit Concert and silent auction on Friday night, with all proceeds going the Clinton Bush Haiti Relief Fund: http://www.arkansans4haitirelief.com/

  3. Beth

    We are all connected and the social media response to the crisis in Haiti is a great example of how people can use their resources to instantly make a positive impact on the lives of people they will never know.

  4. Stan

    We have definitely seen the powerful impact social media is beginning to have on society. I would be interested to see how it is affecting the depth of information people are seeking out. Are they contempt with the blips of data and just following the call to immediate action or is it prompting more research and reading? How much did people actually learn about Haiti as a result of this tragedy? That also would make an interesting study in what it takes for people to sponsor one cause versus another and if social media makes it easier to evaluate that decision since you can quickly find facts and opinions about the work of any organization online.

  5. Heide

    In response to the question Stan posed about whether or not they are just following the call to action or prompting more research, I tend to believe that people are reacting immediately. If people are asked to stop, think, process something, the likelihood of them actually completing the task drops dramatically. Why? We have become a society that wants/demands instantaneous information. Therefore, we reciprocate this by responding immediately.

  6. Gabby

    Hopefully they are reacting immediately with their $10 and also probing further to find out what more they could do and learn more about the situation.
    If people just said “that’s sad, here’s $10” and move on, they miss the much more disturbing story of how Haiti continues to struggle with fundamental problems that neighbors like the Dominican Republic have begun to solve. Events like these raise awarness about deeper issues that Haiti faces beyond the natural disaster.

  7. Stevie

    I think that the overwhelming response has shown that social media is very powerful. I think what may be more important to notice, though, are the reasons why the request spurred such a response. The amount asked for was specific – $10. The giving was easy – a simple text. And the message was accessible – it was everywhere.

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