Katrina Donations Pass $200 Million Mark

Americans have donated more than $200 million to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina–$197 million to the American Red Cross alone.

Donations Pour in for Katrina Relief (AP)

Americans are responding to Hurricane Katrina with a massive outpouring of giving, at times overwhelming call centers and computer servers set up by charities to field donations. Total donations passed the $200 million mark by Friday, four days after the storm slammed into the Gulf Coast. The bulk of those funds were collected by The American Red Cross, which said it has raised $196.9 million from individuals and corporations.

But with needs still impossible to estimate and likely to stretch on for months, relief groups say they don’t know how much will be enough. And they caution that, for all the desperation to help the victims, there are numerous complications to doing so. The scope of the devastation is so wide, the groups say, it takes time to zero in on precisely where help is needed, and the challenge of getting it there safely and securely changes almost hourly. For example, government officials set up roadblocks and restricted relief agencies from distributing aid in New Orleans, the agencies said.

Donations to the Red Cross so far fall short of the $550 million the agency raised after last December’s tsunami, or the $1 billion in total donations it took in after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the volume of calls — about 100,000 a day this week — has vastly outpaced the response after previous disasters, suggesting the donation total could rise substantially. “It’s greater than any response we’ve had in memory,” Ryland Dodge, a spokesman for the Red Cross said.

Internet portal Yahoo.com, which is handling overflow donation traffic from the Red Cross’ own site, said it already accepted $32 million in donations, topping the $30 million it took in after September 11, a figure that took two weeks to reach. In a tally including the Red Cross figure, The Chronicle of Philanthropy said Friday that total aid for Katrina has reached $219 million. By way of comparison, the publication noted that Americans donated $239 million in the 10 days following the terrorist attacks and $30 million in the three days following the tsunami. “After you see the pictures on the television I think that just motivated so many people to give,” said Stacy Palmer, the publication’s editor. “They just saw they had a responsibility to do something.”

With so much death shown on television from a string of natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and wars it would not be shocking if Americans had achieved sympathy fatigue. Thankfully, that hasn’t yet happened.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    Hmmmm, Americans are well into their third century right? You show no signs of sympathy fatigue yet.

    As a Canadian who’s heard it all about Americans, and who’s moved here and discovered something quite different, that’s the thing I’m proud of: Americans don’t know what sympathy fatigue is. They are always there. They have very loose purse strings. And if this hurricane had happened in Japan or in Australia, we’d be on the donation leaderboard there too.

    It’s not just Americans for Americans. It just happens to be that way today.