Corporate Donations to Japan Earthquake Relief Efforts May Surpass Haiti Contributions

Corporate Donations to Japan Earthquake Relief Efforts May Surpass Haiti Contributions

With an estimated 440,000 people living in shelters following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on Friday, contributions from corporations have outpaced those from individuals and are on track to surpass corporate support for disaster relief efforts in Haiti after that country was struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center reports.

According to the BCLC's Corporate Aid Tracker, global corporate support for relief efforts in Japan has topped $137 million as of Wednesday afternoon, after just three and a half business days; it took almost ten days for corporate contributions to reach $100 million after the earthquake in Haiti. More than a hundred companies and corporate foundations, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Caterpillar, General Electric, Microsoft, UPS, and Visa, have pledged cash, are matching employee donations, and/or are waiving fees for donations to relief organizations. Coca-Cola's $7.5 million contribution includes seven million bottles of the company's products, while has donated about 50,000 potassium iodide tablets for distribution to those evacuated from areas near the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.

Medical device companies are also stepping up, with the Abbott Fund pledging $3 million through the American Red Cross and AmeriCares and Medtronic contributing $1 million, including in-kind donations of its products.

Despite calls by the Japanese government for donors to hold off until needs in the stricken country are more clearly defined, giving for relief efforts by individual Americans has picked up and, as of late Wednesday, totaled more than $64 million, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the fifteen largest relief organizations had raised a total of $24.5 million as of Tuesday, including $19 million by the American Red Cross, of which $1.6 million was donated via text message. In contrast, five days after the earthquake in Haiti, approximately $228 million had been raised, including some $16 million via text message.

Why donations have lagged compared to other recent disasters has been a popular topic of conversation on social networking sites, with those conversations often referencing the country's wealth and engineering competence, as well as the Japanese people's perception of themselves as self-sufficient. "They may not complain as much, even if what they're enduring is pretty tough," Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, told the NonProfit Times. "It's part of this notion of faith in themselves and their government. This tradition of stoicism actually may be a great way of coping and dealing with adversity, but [it] tends not to stimulate as much philanthropic response."

Caroline Preston. "U.S. Charities Raise $64-Million for Japan Relief." Chronicle of Philanthropy 03/16/2011. Sam Fanburg. "Donors Not Digging Deep for Japan Relief." NonProfit Times 03/15/2011. Kitty Taylor. "$110M in Business Donations Pledged to Japan's Response Efforts." U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center 03/16/2011. "Japan Earthquake: Medical Device Companies Donate Millions for Relief Efforts." Massachusetts Medical Devices Journal 03/15/2011.