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Donations to Japan lag far behind Haiti or Katrina

chart_disaster_donation.top.gif By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- News of the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan has been widespread, but donations have lagged way, way behind.

Seven days after the 9.0 quake, donations to nonprofit organizations have reached about $87 million, according to a tally by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a newspaper covering nonprofits.

Ways to donate
To make a $10 donation now to:
  • Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund, text REDCROSS to 90999 or go to redcross.org
  • Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency fund, text JAPAN to 20222 or go to savethechildren.org
  • GlobalGiving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief fund, text JAPAN to 50555 or go to globalgiving.org
  • International Medical Corps relief efforts, text MED to 80888 or go to internationalmedicalcorps.org.

In comparison, one week after the earthquake in Haiti, donations totaled about $275 million. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, it was over $522 million.

Of the donations to date, the American Red Cross raised approximately $64 million for the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami response, which includes more than $2.8 million in text donations.

Save the Children raised $5.8 million; World Vision U.S. said they received $3 million as of Wednesday; and The Salvation Army received more than $2.5 million.

But most organizations told the Chronicle that they had raised less than $1 million and more than a dozen relief groups, including Doctors Without Borders, said they are not actively raising money for relief efforts at all.

At the same time, corporations have stepped up with significant pledges and donations. As of Thursday, companies had pledged about $151 million in cash and in-kind donations for disaster relief in Japan, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Some of that money may overlap with the Chronicle tallies, but much of it is additional fundraising that has been sent to international aid organizations, which the Chronicle does not track.

"A number of global companies have strong ties with the Japanese and the Japanese economy so they are responding differently," explained Dr. Una Osili, the director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Individuals, however, are motivated more by their impression of the extent of the damage. In the case of Japan, the devastation was not as immediately apparent as in other recent disasters

"The information on the devastation and degree of damage [in Japan] has only grown over time," Osili said. "It might take some time for individuals to learn about the full impact on the Japanese people."

Although the financial cost to the Japanese government, businesses and individuals is expected to be substantial, it is still unclear what kind of aid the country will need. Even the Red Cross has yet to specify where their funds will be spent.

In addition, "the call to help has not necessarily been made by the Japanese government, so the perception is that Japan can handle this," said Osili.

"Japan is an affluent nation, an industrialized country," she said. Alternatively, "Haiti is a very poor country with a very weak government that lacked the capacity to respond."

As a result, many people may choose to hold back in their giving until more specific needs become apparent, even though the consequences of waiting could be severe.

"Typically the first week is critically important, that sets the pace," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "After the first week, the momentum will be gone, and once it starts to fade a little bit, most people tune away." To top of page

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