Disaster Donations: Haiti Vs. Chile

Donations for relief efforts in Chile pale in comparison to those for Haiti. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports in an interview that a mere $250,000 raised by Americans three days following the Chile disaster, which starkly contrasts the nearly $97 million raised three days following the Haiti earthquake. Despite experiencing a stronger earthquake, Chile’s existing building codes and infrastructure better prepared it to cope with damages. However, several other factors may have influenced the difference in donations:

Consumers Are Tapped Out – Many Americans responded to the Haiti crisis by taking part in the widespread text-to-give campaigns promoted by major relief organizations, through which the American Red Cross alone raised $32 million. Mobile giving was a fast and easy way to respond to the crisis, but some may simply be overwhelmed by donating to the second major disaster in a two-month period. In addition, there has seemingly been more media attention for the Haiti disaster, which continues to capture headlines amidst the Chile crisis.  

Call To Action Was Less Urgent – The Chile government’s call for aid didn’t take place for several days after the disaster which influences donor urgency. According to The 2010 Cone Text-to-Give Trend Tracker, more than one fifth (22%) of respondents indicated they would donate to causes via text message only when the need was urgent.

Haiti Activated Grassroots – In Haiti, the need for donations was immediate and urgent. Individuals were activated to help not only through popular donation campaigns by organizations such as the American Red Cross and Yele Haiti, but also through their own grassroots efforts that utilized events and social media. The Wall Street Journal this week highlighted some of the more extraordinary methods for individual fundraising, such as a skydiving nun and pajama-clad office workers.

Celebrity Involvement – The star power that surrounded Haiti undoubtedly drew additional attention to relief efforts. Whether sports stars making a statement on the courts or a star-studded telethon, celebrities came together for the cause and inspired other Americans to do the same.

None of these factors are the responsibility of any one stakeholder. Governments, relief organizations, businesses, influencers and consumers need to work collaboratively toward a common solution for maximum impact, and we saw this collaboration in top form following the earthquake in Haiti. The sobering reality of the back-to-back earthquakes of 2010, however, made it clear that no two disasters, or their resulting relief efforts, are the same. What will you and your organization proactively prepare to do when another disaster strikes?


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