Donor Fatigue

Katya Andresen posted last week about donor fatigue. Apparently there was an article in the Associated Press that stated  that numerous disasters in a row – like the Burmese cyclone and the Chinese earthquake – create fatigue and depress giving. 

I remember years ago seeing Bob Geldof being interviewed on the news and being asked about Donor Fatigue, and he just went off on one (and I agreed with him) he basically said how can people ever be tired of wanting to help. I think the phrase Donor Fatigue is one we should try and lose, a donors resources may be exhausted, but that doesnt mean they have donor fatigue. Sometimes we do ourselves no favours by allowing terms like these creep into every day language.

There is more to the AP story, Katya sums it up as follows (the first point is one I spend a lot of time talking to people about)

1. It’s not simply the numbers of disasters, it’s the numbers themselves.  It’s well documented that people can’t grasp huge statistics or fathom masses of people in need.  We think in terms of individuals, and so the higher the scale, conversely, we feel the effect less immediately.  Says one non-giver:

“If you thought about at this very second the number of people who were suffering and dying, I could dedicate all my resources to that and yet it would be a drop in the bucket.”

2. Donors need to believe they can make a difference.  That’s not the case in Burma, where aid is being blocked by the miltary government.  It’s more the case in China, where we’ve seen much more giving.

3. Personal ties make a difference – especially in faraway countries, where people may feel less immediately connected.


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