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Chile earthquake relief: Cellphone donations struggle compared to Haiti

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“It’s all about promotion,” Mr. Zimmern said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “If you don’t get that message out to viewers, people don’t know. If Ryan Seacrest says something, or MTV is doing something on it with celebrities, that’s when you drive volume.”

Tragedies of scale

Zimmern says another factor affecting relief is the destruction. While 7.0-magnitiude Haiti earthquake killed an estimated 200,000, the 8.8-magnitude Chile earthquake killed less than 1,000 in one of the richest countries in the Western hemisphere.

“The human tragedy in Haiti was so much greater,” Zimmern says. “I don’t want to minimize the tragedy in Chile, but we’re talking about thousands dead instead of tens of thousands dead.”

Moreover, the Chilean government sent out mixed signals when it initially said it would not accept foreign donations. For that reason, the Red Cross – which was one of the primary recipients of mobile phone donations for Haiti relief – held off on launching a text-to-donate campaign for Chlie.

But others have.

Texting “CHILE” to 52000, for example, donates $10 on behalf of the Salvation Army. The Mobile Giving Foundation passes on 100 percent of the donation and cooperating cell phone companies add the amount to the donator’s monthly cell phone bill. Only the receiving foundation – such as the Salvation Army – pays a fee to the processor for the service.

Donor fatigue?

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