'Hope for Haiti Now' telethon galvanizes giving

The celebrity-studded 'Hope for Haiti Now' telethon has helped spur donations to Haitian earthquake relief, raising $61 million so far.

By , Correspondent

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    In this image released by Hope for Haiti Now, Robert De Niro, left, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Barkin, right, work the phone bank at 'Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief', on Friday in Los Angeles.
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Friday night’s star-studded “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon appears to have helped reinvigorate donations for earthquake survivors after the initial appeals died down, say philanthropy experts.

The celebrity telethon has so far raised $61 million for Haiti relief efforts. Charity donations for Haiti have reached $470 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The two-hour telethon was hosted by George Clooney and Wyclef Jean, and included performances by Mr. Jean, Madonna, Jay-Z, Bono, Sting, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Coldplay.

The event, which was broadcast on all major TV networks and some cable channels, brought in an average of 24 million viewers for the entire event and 83 million viewers who tuned in at some point during the telethon. Haiti earthquake survivors also listened to the telethon via a Haitian radio station based in Port-au-Prince.

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“I think it definitely contributed to a spike in funds,” says Caroline Preston, who writes on charitable giving for the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “Thirteen days after the earthquake, the pace of giving had slowed. Having the telethon a week and a half after the disaster helped to remind people that there’s still a need for funds, and people responded.”

Last week’s telethon raised more than the $18.3 million collected through a similar telethon for 2004's Asian tsunami relief efforts, but less than the $140 million collected for victims of the 9/11 attacks, Ms. Preston says.

Part of the Haiti telethon's success, she adds, is due to the level of celebrity involvement. In addition to musical performances, the telethon featured actors including Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and Nicole Kidman, who told stories of Haitians who survived the quake.

“Having their voices out there … will inspire some people to give who might not have otherwise,” she says.

The telethon’s donations go to the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a not-for-profit charitable organization that leverages celebrity to collect and distribute funds for aid efforts around the world. The EIF will distribute the Haiti funds to seven charities, including the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, United Nations World Food Program, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Red Cross, and Yele Haiti Foundation.

The "Hope for Haiti Now" initiative accepts donations via web, text, phone or mail for another six months.

Donors can call 877-99-HAITI, text "GIVE" to 50555, or mail Hope For Haiti Now Fund, Entertainment Industry Foundation, 1201 West 5th Street, Suite T-700, Los Angeles, CA 90017.

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