Previous research from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project has found that a fifth of US adults have made a charitable contribution online, and that 9% have done so using texting. But a new survey of 863 individuals who contributed money to the Haiti earthquake efforts using texting donations shows that this behaviour can be replicated, but only in other high-profile disasters such as the BP Gulf oil spill or the Japanese tsumani. Think of this as impuse charity, very much in the moment.

Three-quarters of the Haiti text donors surveyed said that their text message contributions usually result from spur-of-the-moment decisions that do not involve a lot of additional research and they were first-time givers to any cause via their mobiles. This compares to about half of those who give via other online campaigns, such as the Web or email. Slightly more than half of them subesequently texted additional donations to these other disaster relief efforts.

Not surprisingly, the Pew researchers found that the Haiti text donors were more technologically involved, and more likely to own an e-reader, a tablet, or a laptop computer. They are also younger and more racially and ethnically diverse when compared with those who contribute through more traditional means. However, their giving patterns mirror the general population. Pew found that 26% of the Haiti text donors surveyed donated $50 or less over the past year, and two thirds of these donors have contributed $250 or less to charitable causes in the last year. This is about the same pattern they observed in a previous study of the general population.