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“Compassion fatigue”:
Is it affecting China, Myanmar donations?

  • Disasters seen by many Americans as “must-give” situation
  • Leading aid group expects to raise four times initial estimate for Myanmar; China donations boosted by corporate giving, Chinese-American community
  • Fundraising comparisons to Asia tsunami, Katrina not best indicator of American generosity

Seattle, May 20, 2008—As the death counts for Asia’s twin disasters continue to climb, leading relief agency World Vision is seeing a surprising responsiveness among donors to the needs in Myanmar and China.

“We have been tremendously encouraged by the generosity of both our existing donors and donors giving to us for the first time,” said Randy Strash, World Vision’s strategy director for disaster response.

“In our experience, massive natural disasters like these bring out the compassion in people; many see them as “must-give” situations—recession or no recession,” Strash explained. “It’s life or death. People understand both the urgency of the need and the impact their donation will make. I believe that’s why we’re not seeing any signs of donor fatigue among our supporters. In fact, in the case of Myanmar, we expect to raise four times what we initially estimated.”

World Vision—one of just a few organizations with staff responding on the ground in both disasters—has so far raised $5.1 million for Myanmar and $850,000 for China among donors in the United States. The Christian humanitarian agency expects these numbers to climb significantly in the coming weeks, especially in the case of China, where corporate donors are actively engaging and the Chinese-American community has mobilized to help.

A significant amount of the giving is happening on the organization’s website: “For online fundraising, these two disasters in Myanmar and China have set the highest record in three years—since the overwhelming response during the Asia tsunami,” said Shari Goetsch, an online fundraising director for the Seattle-based agency.

While the 2004 Asia tsunami and 2005 Hurricane Katrina responses were met by unprecedented American generosity, many fundraising experts say these disasters were unique in many ways.

“For so many reasons, the tsunami and Katrina blew all fundraising models out the window,” explained Strash. “The Pakistan quake in October 2005 is a much better indicator of how much Americans tend to give for disasters—and we’re meeting and surpassing that benchmark with Myanmar and China now.”

Strash cautioned that his team is not slowing their fundraising pace yet: “The human needs in Myanmar and China continue to be urgent and massive in scope. And we already know that the reconstruction effort in both in disasters is going to take time and funds.

“With the Asia tsunami, the reconstruction was 10 times the scale of the emergency relief operation, and it took three years to complete the work. That's why we can't afford to slow down our fundraising efforts yet.”

In China, World Vision has begun distributions of relief items, including quilts, tents, shelter tarpaulins, plastic sheets, food and hygiene items to survivors. The agency plans to reach more than 123,000 quake survivors with immediate relief as well as long-term rebuilding assistance focused on home and school reconstruction.

In Myanmar, World Vision’s 580 in-country staff has assisted 130,000 people with rice, clean water, medicines and survival items—and plans to reach nearly 500,000 in all. In addition, dozens of Child-Friendly Spaces are giving child survivors a safe place to play and recover from any losses or traumatic experiences.


Experts in disaster response and fundraising are available for interviews. Please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214 or or Casey Calamusa at 206.310.5476 or

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit

Who Is World Vision?

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice..

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