FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - In the call center for World Vision in Federal Way, a bell rings on the wall. A bell ring by a telephone representative signifies a $1,000 donation. There are bigger donations - donations of $100,000 or more aren't unheard of. The typical donation is more like $100 or $25. But, those small donations that keep coming even through the recession are critical to the victims of Haiti's earthquake and the other programs that World Vision sponsors in some 100 countries.
It's the disasters that cause the spikes and, when the news coverage is wall-to-wall on the networks, the donations keep pouring in.
But there are limits. It's called "compassion fatigue."
"It's a three-year commitment. We need to raise the money in the first three weeks or so." says Randy Strash, World Vision's strategy director for emergency response.
Long after the TV networks have gone and the headlines vanish from the front pages of the world's media, the need in Haiti will continue. Collapsing buildings cause crushing injuries to limbs, meaning many Haitians have already lost arms and legs to the quake and will need prosthetics. Infrastructure from bridges to water systems need to be rebuilt, the economy re-created and new homes erected. When Strash looks at his organization's commitment, three years may be short. It could be five.
World Vision's Web site at www.worldvision.org prominently features the Haitian quake. To do their work, they need to strike while the interest is hot. Most of the money, in fact anywhere from 55 to 70 percent of the $40 million- to-$50 million the organization expects to spend in Haiti, will come from those small donors. And those small donors play another role in allowing World Vision to leverage larger private and government grants.
Donations won't stop after three weeks. Strash talks about "the tail" of donations that will continue to flow, but even then the bow wave of publicity drives donations.
"For instance, in the Asian tsunami, we were still receiving donations three years after the tsunami occurred because of the visibility of the disaster when it first occurred," said Strash.