Is “doing-for” a form of social capital after all?

With $112 million and counting in contributions to Haiti via the sacred text message number “90999,” it is no wonder thousands are praising cell phone technology, which has now proven itself as a successful tool in mobilization. CNN.com reported that during the “first 48 hours of the campaign, the amount of money raised was greater than the Red Cross brought in during similar periods after Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami disasters.”  Red Cross spokeswoman Carrie Housman claimed it was a viral phenomenon that had 10 year olds pledging to help.

Even with all of these hard-hitting numbers of good will, nothing is perfect. Scams raged ramped, rumors were “tweeted” and continue to circulate. Phone companies were praised and then quickly bashed when word was received they would not donate their customer’s pledged money for a length of 90 days. Verizon quickly refuted this issue on Friday by immediately sending a check for the $3 million donated.

As Americans continue to text donations, it is evident that ease and accessibility are the key components in this campaign. Donations can be made any time and anywhere, and perhaps most importantly, without hassle. These simple components instigated a viral reaction, which accelerated exponentially through support of a number of companies, celebrities, and the White House. Text messaging served as the easiest most accessible outlet for Americans to react as the media continued to shock and awe through photographs, video-clips and news updates.

Perhaps this new mobile technology is one of the new ways we are engaging Putnam’s social capital. Though this act of texting-to-donate is “doing-for,” where can the line be drawn when “doing-with” is not feasible?  If what people need more than physical help is money, who’s to say that “doing-for” is not the same as going to Haiti in person? Perhaps, in this case, “doing-for” during a new age of mobility will change the way America views “helping.” In referring to the text-to-donate phenomenon, Jeffrey Nelson, executive director for corporate communications at Verizon Wireless declared, “This is the new paradigm in philanthropy.”

Visit the Red Cross’ twitter page to follow updates on what they need to help!

Putnam, R. D. (2000). Altruism, Volunteering, and Philanthropy. In Bowling Alone.

-Rachel Kaylor, Writer

-Danielle Murray, Research

-Mandy Baker, Design