Why You Should Donate To Nepal In The Days, Months, & Years To Come, Long After It's Stopped Making Headlines

In the wake of Nepal’s massive earthquake, traditional modes of disaster relief financing seem turned on their head. While the UN has struggled to collect emergency funds for the humanitarian effort in the wake of the tragedy — which killed over 8,000 people — social media-based crowdfunding campaigns dedicated to the cause have raked in cash. GoFundMe alone has hosted nearly 50,000 donors who, by May 6, had raised $3.5 million. On Thursday, Indiegogo reached the similarly dazzling amount of $2.3 million, according to a statement circulated by the site. Nepal will need all the money that can be found in the weeks, months, and years ahead, especially as it faces ongoing aftershocks and fresh earthquakes.

“Following the series of tragic earthquakes in Nepal, Indiegogo’s generous community has collectively donated more than $2.3 million to support those affected,” Indiegog said in the statement. “Donors from over 100 countries have contributed to the more than 600 campaigns across Indiegogo and Indiegogo Life, setting a new record for the largest disaster relief effort on the platform to date.” The news comes just after the United Nations admitted it had received only around 5 percent of the $415 million it requested — or around $22.4 million dollars.

“It's a poor response,” Orla Fagan, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters last Thursday. In comments that look particularly bleak when compared with Indiegogo’s buoyant announcement, Fagan cited “donor fatigue” as the reason for the slow response. The earthquake struck northwest of Kathmandu on April 25, killing over 8,000 people, injuring more than 16,000, and destroying over 300,000 homes.

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Since the initial quake, aftershocks have rattled the country. Another big quake on Tuesday left over 96 dead, according to The Wall Street Journal, injuring over 1,100 and further traumatizing the whole country — but especially the region of Dolakha, which is close to the initial quake’s epicentre. Nepal's Minister of Commerce and Supplies told BBC this week that the earthquake’s economic cost could come to more than the country’s annual budget.

A previous estimate from Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram S. Mahat set the reconstruction amount at $10 billion, which is in fact only roughly half of Nepal’s $20 billion economy. For comparison, that budget is smaller than any of the 50 U.S. states yearly allowance. Nepal is one of the world’s most impoverished nations. All of which means that financial assistance is sorely needed. And, although the UN may be struggling, individuals are clearly willing to help.

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CNBC reported that by the start of May, major crowdfunding sites GoFundMe, Indegogo and Crowdrise had collectively raised over $4 million — and given the recent reports from the first two, that number has clearly risen dramatically in the weeks since. And this isn’t even the most impressive of the social media philanthropy that Nepal’s quake unleashed. Facebook raised $10 million within a couple of days, by allowing users to donate via its interface.

Prominent campaigners such as Prabal Gurung (the New York-based Nepalese fashion designer who launched a funding initiative on Crowdrise following the quake) are partly responsible for the success of online initiatives, but equally the efficiency of payment and sense of connection offered by the crowdfunding experience could have a part to play. Nepal’s popularity as a tourism and trekking location could also be a factor, as enamoured former visitors promote the cause of a land they remember fondly.

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Some aspersions have been cast on the actual efficacy of these campaigns, beyond their ability to promote a cause and raise money. Better Business Bureau’s Bennett Weiner told NPR that people should give their money to established organizations, rather than small campaigns — citing limited resources and infrastructure. “You may have only one runway available for deliveries, and places may be inaccessible immediately because roads are now broken,” he said. “Well guess what? If they are impassable to the staff at established charities, they're probably going to be impassable to other charities there.”

But crowdfunding sites and big aid organizations are not necessarily mutually exclusive (as an Oxfam America collaboration with Indiegogo shows), and Nepal currently needs money stat. Advice on how best to donate, and who to, has flooded the internet — now what’s necessary is simply to maintain momentum, as the tragedy slowly drops off the media circuit. Bob Ottenhoff, CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, told NBC News, “There is this intense interest now, but people tend to forget about the area once the cameras go away.”

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With aid agencies already on the ground, on hand to assist with more aftershocks and earthquakes, donated funds (as long as they’re wisely directed) can now be implemented immediately and with great effect. Immediate relief, offering food, shelter, medical aid and clean water, is of ongoing importance, especially as aftershocks and quakes leave more lives at risk. As Jacob Harold, CEO of GuideStar (a company that maintains of a database of 2.2 million nonprofits) told NBC, “It's usually better to give money than stuff after a disaster because it gives charities more flexibility to address the immediate needs of the affected communities.”

Nepal, with an annual per capita GDP of $1,000, is one country that truly cannot pick itself up from this disaster without global assistance. The initial rush, as evidenced by crowdfunding, has been strong. It remains to be seen whether that dash to help can be transformed into long-running assistance. If you're confused as to whether, or where, to donate, let me clarify. This is a country that is in need of help, and if you're able to provide any sum of money and you want to assist, then you should.

ActionAid is just one example of an excellent organization to donate to. Their assistance has already reached over 48,500 people (in the form of food, tarpaulins and hygiene kits, among other things) and they are hoping to increase the scale of their outreach in coming months. You could be a part of that endeavor.

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