Japan Donations Not Popular Choice for Americans

Mar 17, 2011, 08:17

Japan donations used to help fund search, rescue and health initiatives are not a popular choice in America. The natural disaster and potential nuclear catastrophe in Japan haven't resulted in much financial support from U.S. residents, a spot survey indicates.

Aid organizations in the United States so far raised about $49 million for the Japanese cause in the six days since the earthquake and the tsunami it triggered struck the island nation -- a small percentage compared with other recent disasters, USA Today reported Thursday.

For example, the earthquake that devastated Haiti last year received $296 million in U.S. donations in the first seven days, the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said. In 2004 Americans gave nearly $250 million to the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami in the first week.

The difference in Japan's case may be a perception of self-sufficiency in the country with the world's third-largest economy, said Patrick Rooney, the philanthropy center's executive director. Donations are being made, just not as high or as quickly as before.

"Japan is a highly developed industrialized nation and doesn't appear to be in great need. Haiti and Indonesia, these are countries that were for the most part very poor countries," Rooney said.

Trevor Neilson, partner in the Global Philanthropy Group, which represents celebrities including actors Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Ben Stiller, and singer Shakira, told USA Today people may want to donate but they're concerned by "the terrifying news ... about the potential nuclear crisis that could create the need for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid over the next 20 to 30 years."

Another factor affecting donations is media coverage, said Gerald Martone, director of humanitarian affairs at the International Rescue Committee.

While Japan's plight certainly has been covered, "everyone sees Japan as a wealthy country, so I'm not surprised" that donations have lagged other disasters, Martone said.

One more issue could be the ease of contributing online because people tend to make a gift once "and move on," Rooney said.

Source: UPI