Bummer: Haiti text donations won’t get there until your billing cycle ends

In the days following the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, Google searches were way up for people seeking ways to donate money to Haitians in need.

Millions were raised in 48 hours for organizations like the Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti foundation. (You can watch Wyclef’s response to financial criticisms of his charity here.) As of Friday, people texting “Haiti” to 90999 had donated $8m to the Red Cross specifically for Haitian earthquake relief. The damage is immense, suffering in Haiti is off the charts bad, and Haitians desperately need the financial relief that these charities can provide. The bad news? Any donations made via text message to these charities won’t be forwarded to their intended recipients until after your billing cycle ends:

In a texting donation, a person types a so-called short-code such as 90999 and then types in “HAITI” to donate a preset amount of $10. The cellphone user then gets a text back asking that they confirm the donation. After a confirmation, the person receives a text saying, “Thanks! $10 charged to your phone bill for Red Cross Int’l Relief.”

But no money moves until a person pays their cellphone bill to cover the pledge. The money then is routed through a carrier that aggregates the donations before dispatching them to one of the foundations. Those then move the money to agencies such as the Red Cross.

In fact, the end of your billing cycle is the best case scenario as far as text message charity giving goes- it could take up to ninety days for the much needed funds to reach Haiti. Cellular providers say they can’t easily “front” the money to the charities before customers pay up, but some are choosing to pay up now. Verizon has confirmed that they plan to lay out $3m in funds donated by customers and will continue to do so as the cash rolls in. AT&T has not commented on the situation.

It should be noted that Haiti will still desperately need financial relief in the months ahead to repair and rebuild their battered nation. Monies donated that will be help up in charity red tape until then will still do a lot of good for the people there. But if you’re looking to make a donation and want the money there faster, you can donate directly to Doctors Without Borders (who had an established, on the ground presence in Haiti well before the tragedy) or the American Red Cross through their websites the old fashioned way- by inputting your credit card information on a website or through PayPal.

[Via Consumerist, Image: UN Flickr]