Several international aid agencies are helping with the emergency response, and we have verified that Save the Children, American Red Cross, Oxfam, Doctors without Borders and Hope for Haiti are all organizations actively providing aid to Haiti. If you would like to contribute towards their efforts, please see instructions below.

In 2004, an undersea earthquake caused the deadliest tsunami in history. Hundreds of thousands of people across 11 countries were killed and millions were left homeless. Almost immediately, US citizens showed their compassion and began making money donations and sending other types of aid and assistance to the victims.

On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. Thousands of Haitians were killed, thousands more were injured, and much of the nation's infrastructure was left in ruins. Once again, US citizens have sprung to action and are answering the calls for money donations. This time, though, people aren't just mailing checks.

Texting and Social Media

mGive spearheaded an incredible effort. It made it possible for anyone with a cell phone or other mobile device to make a donation by text message. By texting "Haiti" to number 90999, people were able to donate $10 to the Red Cross. A $10 charge is added to the user's cell phone bill.

In one day mGive raised $1.2 million dollars. By January 13th, just one day after the earthquake, US citizens texted a total of $3 million in donations to the Red Cross, setting a single-day record for text messaging donations.

Texting donations isn't new. After all, the prior records broken by donations to Haiti were $200,000 in during the 2004 tsunami crisis, and $400,000 in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. Nonetheless, the extraordinary response to the disaster in Haiti shows that thousands of Americans like the speed and ease of texting donations.

As for the huge differences between the money raised for Haiti versus the tsunami and Katrina: millions more of us have cell phones and use text messages than five and six years ago.

And it's safe. Responding to unsolicited mail or telephone calls or some web sites out there leave you open to being scammed. Even the US Department of State recommends texting "Haiti" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross.

Watch For Scams

If you'd rather send a check or charge a donation, do some research and be careful of scams. Unfortunately, natural disasters often give unscrupulous people the opportunity to cheat those who want to help others in need. So, before you send any money:

  • See if your employer supports a charity. They may also match your donation 
  • Check your phone book for the local Red Cross chapter, or make a donation online
  • Ask your church or other religious organization about relief efforts it may be making
  • If you've never heard of a charity or if you have a question about it, contact your local Better Business Bureau (BBB), and check with the BBB's Charities and Donors service
  • If you get an unsolicited telephone call asking for a donation, ask for them to send you written information their charity, especially how the charity will use your money and how much of your donation will actually go to Haiti (phone solicitor's usually get a portion of your donation). And don't give them personal information, like your bank account, credit card, or social security number
  • If you think you've been contacted by or given money to a scam "charity," file a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or call the FTC's Hotline at 1-877-382-4357

If you can afford it and your heart tells you to, go ahead and donate. The Haitian people - or the victims of any future natural disaster - need and appreciate the help. Just make sure that your donation is secure and the Haitian people actually get it.

Questions For Your Attorney

  • Is my donation to the Red Cross tax deductible? Can I use my cell phone bill as a receipt, or do I need some other proof for my taxes?
  • I placed a "stop payment" on a check as soon as I found out the charity I wrote it for was scam. The bank cashed the check, though. Is there any way I can get my money back from the scammers or from the bank?
  • Do I have to wait for the FTC to investigate my complaint before I file a lawsuit against a scam charity?

Tagged as: Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations, haiti relief, donation, charities lawyer