Stanford Social Innovation Review : Informing and inspiring leaders of social change


Individual Giving

Fatal Flaw

After a disaster, donors to relief funds pay more attention to the death toll than to the needs of survivors.


In 2003, the Bam earthquake in Iran killed 26,796 people and left 267,628 survivors. Donors responded by contributing $10.7 million in disaster relief. In 2000, the Yunnan earthquake in China killed 7 people and affected 1.8 million others—and this time donors gave only $94,586.

That pattern of disparity is common, says Ioannis Evangelidis, a doctoral candidate in marketing management at the Rotterdam School of Management. Donor behavior in the wake of catastrophic events suggests that...

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