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Relief Agencies Worry About Potential Donor Fatigue

Donor fatigue occurs when people have been asked repeatedly to donate money for relief aid following natural disasters. Some relief organizations believe donor fatigue could adversely affect the amount of aid they can provide to survivors of the recent earthquake in Indonesia, which killed six thousand people. But a recent study by the Giving USA Foundation shows that Americans are giving more to charitable services. VOA's Indonesian Service produced this report. Jim Bertel narrates.

Relief efforts are ongoing in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The area was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake last month. It also is being threatened by volcanic activity from near Mount Merapi. This is the most recent disaster in a country that also was hit hard by a tsunami in late 2004.

But for potential U.S. donors, the earthquake is the latest in a succession of domestic and foreign disasters. The U.S. gulf coast region is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina's destruction last year. Some relief officials are concerned this may affect the level of new donations.

Haris Iskandar is the head of the Yogyakarta Quake Relief Task Force at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C. "After Katrina and other disasters, we are naturally concerned that people become desensitized and consider the Java earthquake newsworthy without being motivated to assist," he told us.

Relief agencies and volunteers have given a name to this lack of motivation - donor fatigue. They believe it sets in when people have grown tired of receiving unending appeals for donations.

Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat, Indonesia's ambassador to the U.S., does not doubt the willingness of the American public to help victims of the earthquake. But he does acknowledge the possible effects of donor fatigue.

"I have yet to anticipate the level of generosity of the American people,” said the ambassador. “But we expect they will respond positively in the near future by sending funds to the Indonesian embassy as well as the American Red Cross."

Relief organizations say they understand how public sentiment can affect donation levels. But it does not deter them from making appeals for aid when disaster strikes.

Doctor Ahmed El-Bendary works with Islamic Relief, a Muslim charity based in Burbank, California. "In our dealings with our donors, they are always rising to the occasion and stepping up to the need." Islamic Relief joined together with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to deliver more than $1.6 million in food and medical supplies to the affected regions within days of the disaster.

Other relief organizations are also making appeals for monetary donations. They hope that people will ignore any possible donor fatigue and reach into their wallets again to help the latest victims of disaster.