Haiti Donations: Taxes and Texts (practical considerations for donors)

Activities surrounding the Haiti earthquake remain one of the trending topics being covered by journalists since the news broke on January 12, 2010. In the first 24-72 hours after the news of the quake, there were multiple reports on the increase in text donations, specifically through the Red Cross fundraising campaign. (See also: Haiti: How Can I Help?). As donors from around the world continue to give, we focus today on two practical considerations for donors that we continue to hear about: Taxes and Texts.

In Guidestar’s recent February newsletter, donors will find IRS information regarding a new law passed for a special tax provision, as well as detailed  instructions for getting immediate tax relief for donations made to Haiti between January to March 2010. This provision covers those filing taxes for 2009 and includes electronic donations via sms/text and online platforms. In addition, the Financial Times ran a story of charities in the UK that missed approximately £5 million in potential tax deductions, that is now being held by the Treasury for reallocation, due to a lack of donor education on the country’s Gift Aid Programme for tax relief on Haiti donations.


The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that over $644 million has been raised, as of February 3rd, for Haiti relief. Of this total, $31 million was donated to the Red Cross via text message. In addition, Convio, an online donation software company, processed over $250 million in donations as of February 2nd.  As we reported in a previous post, Haiti: High Impact Technology for Disaster Relief Giving, many of the phone companies and mobile giving services have waived their standard setup fees (ranging from $3,000 – $10,000) charged to nonprofits for this service.  Since that post, many of these same phone companies and mobile giving services have now expedited their standard processing time (usually 60-90 days) for text donations. As a result, nonprofit beneficiaries no longer have to wait until donors pay their phone bills to receive text donations. For more on text giving, donors and nonprofits can refer to the following articles that address concerns on the potential future challenges for nonprofits, 5 Real Challenges For Non-Profit Texting Campaigns, and Is the Haiti Response a Game-Changer for Mobile?