The ease of making contributions online has helped Americans become much more generous to other countries, especially when disaster strikes. Since a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, Americans have already donated millions of dollars, including more than $10 million alone raised through a Facebook link.
Access to stories about the thousands of deaths, injuries and utter devastation of homes and livelihood move people to contribute — and they do after such tragedies. But the need for assistance lasts much longer than when the disaster is no longer the top story for news media.
Donations tend to peak three days after catastrophic events, said Donna Callejon, chief business officer at Global Giving, a Washington, D.C.,-based charity fundraising website. “It’s reality that the majority of the people who give after a disaster are driven by the news cycles,” she said.
Contributions made within days of a disaster are crucial to support establishment of emergency services, such as food, shelter and water. Still, rebuilding after events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and massive floods often takes years, long after the relief agencies have come and gone.
Callejon said aid organizations such as Global Giving and others look at how to support local and regional nonprofits to provide ongoing relief, but don’t have access to the “fundraising machines” of larger, global agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
Overall, private giving from America to international causes ballooned from $8.4 billion in 2000 to $19.1 billion in 2012, according to the 2013 Assessment of U.S. Giving to International Causes report. One of the single-largest donors is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped offset a dip in giving during the recession.
Quantity isn’t everything, however. Donors should be careful to vet the organizations or funds they give to — also easier thanks to the Internet — and keep track of what happens with their donations. Many reputable charities provide regular updates to their donors.
In Nepal, a major challenge is weak infrastructure from low-quality building construction to lack of roads to reach remote villages exacerbated by the earthquake’s devastation.
Nepal’s needs will not fade as quickly as the headlines, and neither should efforts to help.
— Seattle Times,