PORTLAND, Ore. -- At Tigard-based Medical Teams International, bags were prepared Wednesday for the first team of disaster relief response volunteers heading to Haiti. Upstairs, a young woman named Chiqui Flowers sits in a small cubicle, monitoring the organization's website and social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
She knows many are following.
“People are connected to social media through the web site, their phones," she said, pointing out her smart-phone apps for both social feeds, which connect the agency and its donors on a personal level.
The speed of information accessibility dictates donor support, says Medical Teams International spokeswoman Marlene Minor. And no single agency, network or news organization can spread the word like Twitter.
“How soon they can donate -- how soon they can volunteer -- and ... how soon they can pray for the situation," are all based on information's spread, Minor said, noting that Medical Teams is a Christian organization.
A chart maps out the geographical reach of Medical Teams' donors. The graph reflects how news of the Haitian quake spread in relation to donors. Wednesday's donor amount was 10 times the norm. More than $35,000 was contributed.
Social media is so important that Mercy Corps, the Portland-based international relief agency, has hired a full-time coordinator. Leah Hazard's primary job might get others fired: she Tweets and Facebooks the day away. But her time is money - and the agency's success depends on her social reach.
“Social media is incredibly valuable during disasters because we reach out to our immediate supporters and followers and they're able to reach out to their networks and really leverage their networks," Hazard said.
And it's working. Jeremy Barnicle, Mercy Corps vice president of marketing, said the agency raised a half-million dollars over 24 hours for Haiti. And they did it mainly online.
Barnicle says social media is crucial to selling the public on the need to help.
“We can’t respond the way we do if the public doesn’t respond with donations," Barnicle said. "Getting those pictures out quickly, helping people understand how serious this is -- taking the mystery out of it and making it real -- that's where social media is huge. It’s absolutely huge."
Both organizations are listed with secure donation pages by clicking here.