cellphoneinhand.jpgText messaging took a twist last week when Haiti was hit with a devastating earthquake. While governments and aid agencies moved into gear to help, the average American was wondering how they could help. They got their answer shortly after the quake when the Red Cross and mobile phone companies announced that they would take donations by cell phone.

All you had to do was to send a cell phone text message to the number 90999 and to include the word "HAITI" and $10 would be donated to Red Cross relief efforts in that country.

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and other major carriers all quickly jumped on the bandwagon allowing donations over their text messaging network. The carriers promised that there are no hidden fees. 100% of the donation goes directly to the Red Cross.

The mobile phone customer will see the donation added to their next cell phone bill. This method of contributing money has been around for a while, but the unbelievable destruction in Haiti brought this process to the forefront. It allows for a quick impulse action. You see the horrible conditions in Haiti on TV or on the Internet and you can help with one quick text message. It is without a doubt the most convenient way of donating. Just a few days after the quake, millions of dollars had been donated. On January 15th, just a few days after the quake, CNNMoney.com reported that mobile donations had already reached almost $7 million.

In theory, the text message only represents a pledge and doesn't become a cash donation until the cellular bill is paid. Normally, it can take between 60 and 90 days for a charity to receive a wireless donation. But because of the immediacy of the situation, at least one mobile phone company has stepped up to the plate. Last Friday, Verizon Wireless said that it would not wait for the billing cycle to run its course. They transferred nearly three million dollars in funds to the American Red Cross. The three million dollars represents 300,000 text messages sent by Verizon customers to the Red Cross's special phone number in just two days. Kudos to Verizon!!

As noted earlier, people can give $10 to the Red Cross by texting the word HAITI to 90999. Other organizations are also collecting money in the same way. . Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are also leading fundraising efforts. Texting the word HAITI to 20222 will give $10 donation to the Clinton Foundation. You can give $10 to the International Medical Corps (85944) and the Salvation Army (52000) by simply texting "HAITI" to their special phone numbers.

Cellular carriers limit the number of donations that can be made from one cell phone number to avoid abuse. So, if you want to donate a larger amount, you can contact the charity of your choice directly by telephone or by using online donation resources.

And if you want to give a little less, texting the word HAITI to 25383 will give $5 to the International Rescue Committee and texting the word Yele to 501501 will give $5 to Yele Haiti, founded by Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-American multi-platinum musician, rapper, and record producer. The same word sent to 864833 contributes $5 to the United Way.

The Mobile Giving Foundation (www.movilegiving.org) lists almost 200 charities that are already setup to accept donations by mobile phone. As more aid groups join the Haitian mobile relief effort, there are sure to be even more who will direct the fund directly to Haiti. You can also give by mobile phone to agencies like Doctors Without Borders (A text to 90999 with DOB as the message gives them a $5 donation) who are already working in Haiti.

Online stores are also making it easy for people to donate to help the people in Haiti. HSN.com, QVC.com, and many other online stores are offering links to the Red Cross and other donation sites. Apple has an even easier way to give online. They have placed a link in the Apple Store that will allow customers to donate to the American Red Cross through their iTunes account. One click and iTunes customers can make donations, through their iTunes account in denominations from $5 to $200.

With the mobile relief and online efforts, technology has given us easy ways to donate money to aid those who need our help. It is also a good way to avoid email scams and fraudulent charities that will try to take advantage of a major natural disaster like this to rip people off. As with any charitable donation, you should make sure the charity you donate to will use the money as you have intended, but this is a safe way to get the money to the charity of your choice. The generosity as well as the texting ability of Americans has proven to be outstanding as millions of dollars from text messages have poured in to help the Haitians.