Why do people give aid?

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In this weekend’s Washington Post Jacqueline Salmon asks why private aid donations occur when they do. More specifically, she looks at financial donations of Americans  (see graph) – but the questions and suggested answers are relevant to all groups and aid agencies. So what triggers that "must-give" button? She claims:

  • Natural disasters beat manmade disasters (e.g. victims of hurricanes and tsunamis generally attract more donations than victims of war and other politically caused crises);
  • Sudden disasters beat slow-moving crises (a sense of urgency mobilizes donors);
  • TV counts (e.g. videos that allow viewers to imagine themselves at the scene make a huge difference);
  • Drama and timing play an important role (e.g. the Southeast Asia Tsunmia occurred during the US holiday season);
  • Ease of giving makes a big difference (i.e. over a fourth of the dollars received by the Red Cross following Katrina came in through its Web site.)
  • Personal experience helps (can people relate to those affected?)
  • Disaster giving doesn't supplant donations to other causes

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