About Public Offering

Contact us:

Subscribe to Public Offering Public Offering RSS Feed

January 15, 2010

Disaster Strikes, Charity Spikes

Catherine New
Print this post

If you have been on Facebook or Twitter in the last 24 hours, you may have seen mobile giving campaigns to aid Haiti. Red Cross and Yéle are among those organizations that have deployed viral giving models in the last 72 hours and have raised millions of dollars in individual donations.

When disaster strikes, charitable giving spikes dramatically. Professor Ray Fisman, director of the School’s Social Enterprise Program, cautions against less-than-honest schemes. Indeed, that has been a historic issue in Haiti. According to the January 13 New York Times op-ed by Tracy Kidder, there are more than 10,000 private organizations in Haiti with a “humanitarian mission” yet the country remains one of the poorest in the world. Fisman says that should not deter giving at the individual level, but rather heightens the importance of donating to well-run and professional aid organizations.

“It’s natural that at a time when an avalanche of cash is being thrown at a problem in a hurry — that’s the nature of disaster relief — opportunistic individuals will take advantage,” he says. “You can protect yourself to a large degree by donating through reputable channels.”

Fisman says a crisis like this also underscores the importance of all CSR policies, not just disaster-specific programs. In recent research on eBay’s GivingWorks program, he and his coreseachers found that following Hurricane Katrina the atmosphere of benevolence had a positive impact and nearly doubled all eBay charity-connected sales.

“At a time of great social need, consumers look very favorably on firms that show a charitable side,” he says. “We also saw this with all the good press that Walmart got for its quick and effective response to Katrina. Of course, companies should also consider helping out in relief efforts for the same reason individuals do — because it’s the right thing to do.”

Photo credit: Red Cross