We’re just now learning what level the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused on the East Coast, specifically in New York City and New Jersey, and people are starting to send the wagons around to raise money to assist those in need. We learned yesterday that mentions of blood donation and the Red Cross skyrocketed on Twitter during the peak of the storm, and other organizations are starting to get involved.
According to Wikipedia, Hurricane Sandy has caused 110 fatalities with one person missing, and an estimated $50 billion in damage. Katrina cost $108 billion to recover from, and some areas and folks haven’t been afforded the chance to even recover.
Silicon Valley is slowly getting into gear, with Yahoo! doing its normal fundraising on its homepage. There’s only one problem, though: It doesn’t seem like the site is raising that much money. Now mind you, any money during this time is fantastic, but if you look back to 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, Yahoo! performed quite well for fundraising during that period.
Let’s look at Yahoo’s homepage today, which features the donation page and tracks how much money has been raised. I believe this is fantastic and it’s something every major site should add, maybe including ours:
According to Yahoo!, 15,968 people have donated $860,679.
Let’s look back at September 5th, 2005, during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath:
Katrina made its second landfall in Louisiana on Monday, August 29th. As I mentioned, the screenshot above was from September 5th, and it shows that 338,360 donors raised $48,259,665.
Why the massive disparity? I have no idea, but I have two ideas.
1. Does anyone visit Yahoo’s homepage anymore?
Without doing a deepdive into traffic stats from sources that aren’t accurate, one could wonder out loud if people even visit Yahoo’s homepage as much as they used to. Katrina was seven years ago and Yahoo! was in a way better place then. Sure, Marissa Mayer is on board now, but the company is trying to pull off a dramatic turn-around. For the umpteenth time.
Even if the traffic to the Yahoo! homepage isn’t down, I suspect that it’s not as trusted as it once was. What I mean there is that during Katrina, the site was a trusted source for news and information. Therefore people threw down money to help their brothers and sisters out. Since Yahoo! had great coverage, people were willing to donate through their site.
Today? Not so much. The people I know who visit Yahoo’s homepage go there for celebrity news and trashy videos about…celebrities. Yahoo! is no longer a trusted source for serious news, and this fundraising effort, or lack thereof, reflects that. Don’t believe me? Check out the current “trending” topics on Yahoo!
But what do I know, right?
2. Are people full of apathy?
People are hit up for donations on every site they visit these days. Facebook just introduced what I believe is a fantastic addition to its Gift product, which allows you to donate money in someone’s name for their birthday. Red Cross included. But are we just numb to all of this now? Do we feel that tweeting and retweeting about a major horrific life event is “enough” and monetary donations are no longer needed?
When I think back to my own fundraising efforts through #BlameDrewsCancer, I honestly believe that if it was out there today, it wouldn’t have been as successful. People are fundraising so hard online, for every little thing, that when a major event happens, we’re simply out of money and sympathy. That hurts me deeply.
The fact that the presidential election is days away doesn’t help, either. I personally get 3-5 emails a day from the Obama campaign asking me for money. If I’ve given so much to his campaign, how will I have money to give to a charity or to relief of Hurricane Sandy?
Look at CNN’s homepage and see if you can spot the hurricane coverage:
Look at this grouping of news that is basically hidden on its site:
It’s silly, and it’s saddening.
What needs to happen
Those in a position to do so need to step up and do something big. Celebrities do concerts and events to raise money, but what do we do in the Valley? Nothing much so far. If Yahoo’s homepage can’t carry us like it did in 2005, who will do something big?
Facebook is doing something and Google is trying to help with information, but who is actively out there trying to raise funds and resources for those in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other areas who need it the most?
I’ve talked to numerous friends who are dealing with food and gas shortages in the city. They can’t get from one place to another because of the subway problems and because their apartments are without power. We don’t fully know the impact that the storm had as of yet, as the city still seems to be in crisis mode. The NYC Marathon was cancelled, which should tell you something. A friend of mine has had to stay in an expensive hotel for a few days and is running out of money because of it. I spent my childhood at the Jersey shore and it’s demolished. It’s just a really bad situation.
I don’t know what to do exactly, and if you have an idea, I’m all ears.
Let’s step up together, myself included.
Until then: Text Red Cross to 90999 – Donate $10 to the Red Cross.
[Photo credit: Flickr]