The CNN Effect
Posted on March 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Right now there is something happening that we call “The CNN Effect.” This refers to the impact that media has over public donations to disasters or other crises. Essentially this is how it works, people are far more likey to donate to events that are:
- Rapid onset – A landslide, earthquake, tsunami – rather than disasters that are much slower such as prolonged draught, desertification, or rising sea levels.
- Vivid images – Scenes that the media can play over and over again that pull at donors heart strings – disasters that are far from the public eye or in areas with very limited coverage may not get as many donations. Think of the flooding in Pakistan last year as an example.
- Perceived “innocence” – Part of how much we give appears to be related to whether or not we think that people are somehow responsible for the disaster. This is often civil conflict, but interestingly enough also the Gulf oil spill. Organizations reportedly had a hard time raising funds because people didn’t want to pay to clean up a disaster caused by the oil companies.
The effect of this is that there can be too much money donated for some disasters and too little money given for others. We call these the “Forgotten Disasters” or “Neglected Crises.” Cynan goes into more detail on this in his post the asterisk is everything.
Currently in Japan, the government and civil societies are working together to meet most of the needs in the recovery efforts. According to this latest situation update, only 13 nonprofits have been given roles in the recover efforts and aside from the Japanese Red Cross, these are very targeted and limited roles. How much assistance will be needed in rebuilding is yet to be seen.
The public is clamoring to donate and do more for Japan, to do something to help. But currently there is a limited need for assistance. Yet other disasters or crises go under funded. This is one of the reasons it’s so critical not to earmark your donations. Don’t give to a specific project or country, instead donate to the general fund. This way, if it turns out it’s not really needed in Japan, they can use it to help with some of the forgotten disasters. Donating to the general fund allows nonprofits to use the money where it’s most needed and do the greatest good with your donation.
the asterisk is everything – la vidaid loca