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$2.96 billion in fundraising for Katrina is a record.

Contributions to help victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes, estimated to be at least $2.96 billion, has surpassed giving in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, setting what's believed to be a record for U.S. private philanthropic giving for a single disaster, The Center on Philanthropy has reported.

The center, based at Indiana University, has been tracking giving by individuals, corporations and foundations. But the true total value of contributions may never been fully known as people provided one-on-one, direct assistance to individuals and groups. In its figures, the center included the monetary value of in-kind gifts only when organizations reported had done the same; the center did not assign a value to add to the total amount.

"When disaster strikes, Americans instinctively want to help, and when the tragedy hits close to home, the response is especially strong," Eugene R. Tempel, Ph.D., executive director of the center, said in a statement. "The vast scope of the long-term recovery and rebuilding and the fact that many Americans from across the country have gone to the area to help and returned with stories of tremendous needs means it's likely that we will see contributions continue for some time to come."

More than 250 individuals, corporations or foundations made contributions of at least $1 million for hurricane victims, from the likes of actors George Clooney and Nicolas Cage to Major League Baseball's New York Yankees and the National Football League. Of those 250 donations, 20 were in excess of $10 million, including $32 million in cash and products from Wal-Mart and its Wal-Mart Foundation.

By far the largest recipient of the contributions was The American Red Cross with more than half of the total, about $1.8 billion, and a goal of raising $2 billion. Three other organizations received $100 mil lion or more: The Salvation Army, $270 million, with a goal of raising $1.5 billion; the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, $100 million; and Catholic Charities USA, $105 million.

Other top recipients of charitable contributions were Habitat for Humanity, $78 million; United Way of America, $41 million; America's Second Harvest, $27 million; Help America Hear Project, $25 million; Humane Society of the U.S., $20 million; Foundations for Recovery, $17.1 million; and Hear Now Project, $15 million. The Center on Philanthropy's tracking listed almost 300 organizations that received contributions.

The Center on Philanthropy estimated that nearly three-quarters of the nearly $3 billion in contributions was from individuals, approximately 21 percent from corporations, and almost 5 percent from foundations. The center tracked giving through the organizations, assorted media reports and Web sites.

"It's especially noteworthy that hurricane relief contributions have reached this level in just three-and-a-half months," said Patrick Rooney, the center's director of research. "Giving for the Gulf Coast region may be higher in part because of the extent of the damage, and because almost everyone knows someone who was affected or who lives in the region."

Americans responded generously to multiple natural disasters in the past year. In addition to $3 billion for the Gulf Coast, U.S.-based organizations collecting aid for disasters received nearly $1.8 billion for relief and rebuilding after the Asian tsunami and almost $80 million to aid victims of the earthquake in the Pakistan region this past fall, according to The Center on Philanthropy. Total giving for those three disasters is about $4.85 billion, less than 2 percent of total charitable giving in the United States during 2004, estimated at $248 billion by the Giving USA Foundation.

Research by the Center on Philanthropy and other organizations after September 11, 2001, indicates that some non-relief nonprofits may experience short-term downturns in donations, but for most organizations those effects are not expected to have a long-term impact.

The majority of the $2 billion raised by the Red Cross, about two-thirds or $1.56 billion, is earmarked for emergency financial assistance, and another quarter for food and shelter, $513 million. Roughly $54 million is set aside for "fundraising costs," to help manage "an unprecedented volume of contributions," and $36 million for "management and general expenses," as of Nov. 10, according to its Web site.

While Habitat for Humanity has raised $78 million, to date it has spent more than $4 million on acquiring land, obtaining building materials and for operational construction coordination, according to Duane Bates, PR/media relations manager for Habitat for Humanity International. While not a first-response organization like the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity "works over the long-term in affected areas to help low-income families build sustainable housing."

The Red Cross has been stung by criticism in the wake of major disasters. In an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times in September, Richard Walden, president and chief executive officer of Operation USA, a 26-year-old international disaster relief agency, expressed concern about one organization receiving such a vast majority of contributions and warned Americans to "take a more disciplined look at their tremendous generosity.

"Giving so high a percentage of all donations to one agency that defines itself only as a first-responder and not a rebuilder is not the wisest home, Walden wrote. The American public, he said, gives money uncritically, and the Red Cross has "the most amazing, over-the-top fund-raising machine in place, and an army of people doing it."

"Americans ought to give a much larger share of their generous charity to community foundations, grassroots nonprofit groups based in the affected communities and a large number of international 'brand name' relief agencies with decades of expertise in rebuilding communities after disasters," he wrote.
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Author:Hrywna, Mark
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:927
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