Stephen Colbert Takes on a New Cause and Nails It: Typhoon Haiyan Donations

Stephen Colbert, host of comedy news show the Colbert Report and a campaigner extraordinaire, jumped into the Typhoon Haiyan fundraising race last week in a big way.

On his Comedy Central show last week, Colbert told viewers how the People’s Republic of China had only pledged a meager sum of $100K to the relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history. (You can read more about the storm’s intensity here.) The comedian then challenged: “I bet the Colbert Nation could give more than that.”

“Let’s kick China’s ass at being compassionate because we are a brotherhood of men, those stingy jerks.”

The campaign was simple: Text “COLBERT” to the number 50555 to donate $10. Colbert had tag-teamed with the nonproft Convoy of Hope for collecting the relief aid.

On Saturday, November 15, Colbert announced in a Tweet that they had reached the $100K goal. In less than a week, the campaign raised $250,000.


Jeff Roman, a Convoy of Hope spokesperson, wrote to the Raptor Lab in an email, “The support Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Nation has extended to Convoy of Hope has been amazing.  The text-to-give campaign, facilitated through mGive”—a method to collect donations through text messaging—”has generated nearly $250,000, our largest text-to-give campaign to date.”

Colbert’s success is unsurprising given his past lobbying efforts. In 2009, he urged viewers to submit the name “Colbert” into the competition for a then new International Space Station node. He ended up losing to the name “Tranquility” but had a space treadmill named after him instead. In 2012, he formed a Super PAC that raised over $1.02 million in the presidential elections and won 5% of the republican primary vote in South Carolina despite his name not being on the ballot. (He had dropped out of the race prior to the vote.)

But did Colbert give more than China?

Yes and no.

Yes, he raised more than the $100,000 initially pledged by China. Part of the reason China had not initially offered more stems from territorial disputes. Both China and Philippines have laid claims to a section of the South China Sea.

Since the time Colbert started his campaign, however, the government of China, who had received flack from several countries concerning their initial donation offer, turned up their aid game.

Late last week, China announced they increase their aid contribution to $1.6 million. This amount is still a pledge and has not yet been submitted to the Philippines, according to the Financial Tracking Service.

This week, China offered one of their hospital ships to storm victims with medical problems.

Beyond China, several countries have raised less than $250,000 to date: Czech Republic, Estonia, New Zealand (although it has pledged nearly $1.6 million), Iceland and more. Countries like India and Israel have raised no money.

To date, the storm’s top three donors include the governments of the United Kingdom, which was raised over $43 million and pledged almost $40 million more, and the United States, which has provided roughly $37 million. The third highest amount, approximately $36 million, comes from a compilation of private individuals and organizations, including the Colbert Nation-Convoy of Hope team.

The major storm has affected 13.2 million people and displaced over 4.4 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs.

Zahra Hirji covers the natural disaster beat. You can follower her on Twitter @zhirji28.

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