As you've undoubtedly heard by now, tonight the biggest names in entertainment are coming together for MTV's Hope for Haiti Telethon, a unified relief effort to raise much needed funds for the disaster torn country, devastated by the recent earthquake. The relief effort is wide reaching and beyond massive.
In totality, 38 networks are slated to simulcast the MTV telethon, which, led by Wyclef Jean, George Clooney and Anderson Cooper of CNN, will feature more than 100 entertainers from every facet of the industry, broadcasting from both coasts, as well as London and Haiti. It's estimated reach is 540 million households. Suffice to say, from 7 to 9 p.m. this evening, all eyes will be on the broadcast.
And no one in Denver will be watching closer than CB Barthlow and his co-workers at mGive, the locallly-based tech company that's built the interface for the mobile giving technology that will be utilized this evening. The efforts of the company, founded just three years ago, on behalf of the State Department and the Red Cross have already raised nearly 30 million dollars.
Remember last week when the tragedy first occurred? Later that afternoon, a short code of 90999 cropped up on Twitter and various other social networks, urging users to get involved by texting that number with the word "Haiti," which would result in a $10 donation that would be deducted from their phone bill. A simple plea, but, if you remember, it went viral almost instantly, with folks tweeting and re-tweeting with abandon.
Yeah, that was all the doing of Barthlow and his colleagues at mGive. But the company didn't just magically mobilize at a moments notice. According to Barthlow, the company's Director, better known around these parts by his nom de tune, charleyBRAND, the company had been laying the ground work for just such an effort since launching nearly three years ago.
The company's story begins with James Eberhard, whom Barthlow still refers to as Jimmy, most likely because the two have been friends since grade school. After selling off his previous business, 9 Squared, a wildly successful independent ring tone company, and traveling for a spell, Eberhard launched Mobile Accord, the parent firm of mGive devoted to mobile advocacy. The stated mission was to make mobile donations a reality, without the major phone carriers taking a cut.
"For three years, we toiled for that," recalls Barthlow. "You know, when you download a ringtone, the carrier gets about 50 percent. So for three years, it was just door slam, door slam, door slam. And then we had some pretty good partnerships with some large NPOs [non-profit organizations], one of those being the United Way, and we were able to launch the first campaign two years ago at the Super Bowl, with the United Way. As a launch, that was awesome.
"So it's been slow and steady to build," he goes on. "Alicia Keys was our biggest client. With her tour and her call to action this summer on American Idol, which did about half a million dollars in about thirty minutes, it was of proof of concept. We've been waiting for a day when proof of concept and consumer education were already done and good, and really getting folks to understand that this is a brand new way for people to do good. This is really all about, 'Did a tragedy just happen? Let's all do this real quick, and fix it.' Is there a disease that's killing people? Let's all do this real quick, and we'll fix it."
"The Haiti disaster relief came out of nowhere. We have a relationship with the State [Department], based on some of the international stuff we're doing, developing Pakistan and that sort of thing. And they reached out and said, 'Look, we're going to make mobile donations happen for this right here and now. So we set it up and they pushed it with Red Cross and it just went gangbusters."
Indeed. Almost 30 million dollars has been raised thus far, a staggering figure. And the projections for tonight are that nearly three million donations will be made, so the figure by night's end could be somewhere around 60 million dollars. And the money is delivered almost immediately, in its entirety in a "100 percent pass through," as Barthlow puts it, with both the carriers waiving their commission and mGive waiving its fees.
"The way it works, traditionally," Barthlow explains, "is you say, 'I want to donate,' and then when your bill comes at the end of the month, that donation is added and you pay your bill. For Haiti Relief, the carriers were conveniently pressured by us and the media, to sort of, 'Hey, this need is right now, why are you going to wait?'
"If you paid your bill this month, typically, the carriers take another sixty days to pay out -- we're talking three months. So with pressure, one by one, each one of the major carriers said, 'Okay, we'll pay right out.' So the way it's working right now, is most all of them are cutting a check at week's end, every Friday, for that week's donations."
Needless to say, Barthlow and company will be watching the Telethon tonight at their offices with vested interest, as will execs from each of the four major carriers, who will be interacting with the team via teleconference.
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"They anticipate such high volume," says Barthlow, "That they want to be online with us so that if something goes wrong, they can fix it. Each one of the carriers is chomping at the bit because they know this is about to be the biggest call to action in mobile and world history."
What's more, it's only one of several efforts that will be taking place tonight in addition to campaigns from UNICEF and several other organizations.
Hope for Haiti is just a text away.
On a semi-related note, as if you needed one, here's another reason to tune in to tonight's broadcas, that's locally related: Evidently, Matt Morris is going to be performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" with his pal Justin Timberlake this evening.