By TODD WALLACK
San Francisco Chronicle
October 13, 2005
They did it again after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in August.
But now, charities fear that donors are tapped out, making it harder to collect contributions for survivors of Saturday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake in South Asia. They are seeing signs of that already.
"I would be hard-pressed to say it's not going to be more difficult to raise money after all the money raised for Katrina, not to mention the tsunami," said Greg Smith, a spokesman for the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the American Red Cross. "People only have a certain amount of money to give to charity. When it's gone, they don't have more to give."
To make matters worse, relief agencies are also trying to raise money for yet another disaster this month - mudslides and flooding that left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in Central America.
U.S. charities collected more than $1 billion for victims of last year's tsunami, believed to be a record for a disaster abroad. And they've collected an additional $1.8 billion in just six weeks for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, an unprecedented pace of donations that outstrips even the mammoth fund-raising after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Experts say it's far too early to gauge how much money will be collected for survivors of the earthquake that leveled buildings across Pakistan and also caused damage in India and Afghanistan. But early returns are discouraging:
- The American Red Cross in Rockville, Md., which raised tens of millions of dollars within the first week after the tsunami hit South Asia, had raised just $1.5 million for quake victims as of Wednesday.
- Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, which raised $159 million after the tsunami, had recorded just $65,000 in donations for earthquake relief as of Tuesday. The charity said it hoped to raise $5 million eventually, 3 percent of the total it raised for tsunami victims, though it could raise its goals later if fund-raising picks up.
- Atlanta-based CARE had received $200,000 for quake victims as of Wednesday, compared with $1.5 million at the same stage after the tsunami, according to the Associated Press.
"It might take a lot more asking this time to get what we need," said Mark Melia, director of annual giving and support for Catholic Relief Services.
Not all charities have seen a slowdown. Mercy Corps in Portland, Ore., which runs humanitarian programs in 35 counties, said it had raised $1.5 million for relief efforts in Pakistan since Sunday, about the same amount it raised for tsunami victims in the same period.
Mercy's latest fund-raising effort has been bolstered by gifts from the Intel Children's Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Online donations are running behind those for tsunami relief, although ahead of giving related to the earthquake that leveled the historic Iranian city of Bam in December 2003.
Some nonprofits have decided not to set up a special fund for earthquake victims. Doctors Without Borders, which sent medical teams and supplies to India and Pakistan after the quake, is asking donors to give money to its general fund so that it can use donations in Pakistan, Central America or wherever else it is needed.
Experts say it could take weeks or months to know whether charities will be able to raise enough money to help shelter millions of refugees and provide other aid to quake victims.
"It is really too early to tell," said Eugene Tempel, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
But Tempel said he thinks U.S. fund-raising totals will fall short of what was raised for tsunami survivors because that disaster killed so many more people. According to some estimates, the tsunami killed 275,000, making it one of the deadliest disasters ever recorded. By contrast, about 25,000 deaths have been counted so far related to the earthquake.
"The tsunami was on a completely different scale," Tempel said.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com
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