Giving to Address Ebola Outbreak Slow to Ramp Up

Giving to Address Ebola Outbreak Slow to Ramp Up

Giving to address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been modest, at best, in part because nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations have been hesitant to ask, the New York Times reports.

To date, donations from foundations and individual donors in support of Ebola relief efforts have largely gone to the CDC Foundation, UN-affiliated agencies, and a handful of medical aid groups, in part because few of the relief agencies that typically seek donations during a humanitarian crisis are actively soliciting funds to address the outbreak. "Have you had any email solicitations?" asked Patrick M. Rooney, associate dean at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "Americans aren't giving because they haven't really been asked."

David Whalen, chief development officer at Partners In Health, told the Times it has been difficult to raise funds for Ebola relief and that lack of media coverage early on is partly to blame. Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first notice about the Ebola outbreak in April, Whalen noted, it was only after an American missionary and a doctor working for Samaritan's Purse contracted the disease in August and were flown to Atlanta for treatment that the media began to ramp up its coverage. In addition, few charities were active in the affected countries as the first cases began to emerge, and those that were had reason to hope the outbreak could be contained.

Thomas Kurmann, director of development for the United States affiliate of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, one of the few NGOs on the ground working to contain the outbreak from the earliest days, told the Times that the "real spike [in donations] came in September," when representatives of the medical relief organization addressed the United Nations. "[That's when] there was a lot of media coverage, and that translates into additional donations." Still, giving to address the outbreak has been modest compared to giving in past humanitarian crisis situations. For instance, although Direct Relief has received roughly $1 million in donations for Ebola-related efforts since it began to airlift supplies to the Liberian capital of Monrovia in September, at a similar point in its fundraising efforts for Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated portions of the Philippines in 2013, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it had received $5.1 million and $6.4 million, respectively.

"It's really intriguing that the bulk of the private giving so far has come from a who's who of the Silicon Valley types of donors," said Rooney, referring to commitments from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, "but it really hasn't gone very much further than that yet."

Stephanie Strom. "Donations for Ebola Relief Efforts Are Slow to Gain Speed." New York Times 10/20/2014.