Nepal Earthquake Triggers Wave of Crowdfunding Relief

By Tadhg Walker

Following Nepal’s deadliest natural disaster in over 80 years crowdfunding websites have been quickly utilised to direct aid to those in need. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through the country, leaving ruin and enormous loss. The UN estimates that at least 8 million people are affected with the death toll currently sitting at over 7000 and rising.

Global coverage of the disaster has been immediate. Sixteen nations have already rushed search and rescue teams to Nepal to help with the devastation, while many other nations have teams waiting and are pledging tens of millions in donations. Many more people want to help but do not have the skills or capacity to travel directly to Nepal to participate. People are turning to crowdfunding websites as they are uniquely placed to get support and funds to where they are needed.

earthquake damage

Earthquake damage in Kathmandu Nepal

Traditionally in the aftermath of a natural disaster money is raised through donations to charities directly through their website or from street campaigns. However charities, and donors, are now turning to crowdfunding websites to help raise money for affected communities. For example, the Red Cross partnered with Indiegogo after Hurricane Sandy to raise funds.

Crowdfundings impact post natural disasters’ is further evident after Typhoon Haiyan. Hundreds of campaigns were started raising money to help rebuild shattered communities. United Airways campaign alone raised a staggering $1.6 millon.

After Cyclone Pam real progress within communities has been made with the help of crowdfunding. Joanna Saville set up a campaign on Indiegogo to raise $30,000 to provide relief and help rebuild several homes in the small village of Mele, Vanuatu. The campaign exceeded its goal and helped those affected rebuild their lives.

Crowdfunding websites lacked the cohesion to rival organisations like the Red Cross, who for example, raised over $11 million. Lessons are being learned, however, with most websites featuring campaigns and pages dedicated to the Nepal earthquake. Collating all fundraising pages is paying dividends for those affected.

On Givealittle, a New Zealand based website, there is page dedicated to the Nepal earthquake with multiple campaigns already underway. As New Zealand knows the devastating effects of earthquakes first hand it is unsurprising a staggering $360,000 has already been raised by New Zealanders. Further a Nepalese group based in Christchurch, where a deadly earthquake occurred in 2011, has raised $35,000. This is undoubtedly aided by the empathy those living in Christchurch feel for their Nepalese counterparts.

There are similar pages on the Indian websites BitGiving, and Ketto, as well on global websites Crowdrise, GoFundMe and Indiegogo. Collectively the above websites have raised a staggering $6 million.

Aid workers in Nepal distributing much needed aid

Aid workers in Nepal distributing much needed aid

One of the most successful campaigns is the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund on Indiegogo having raised over $400,000. Since its inception numerous updates have been provided, including pictures, to show the impact the donations are making.  Donors receive tangible gratification as they can see their money making a real impact in the affected communities.

There are a massive spread of specific campaigns operating in the aftermath of the earthquake, allowing the donor to choose a personal cause. Want to donate to help families in need? No problem. How about to Nepal’s rural communities? Here you go. Think early childhood centres and schools are the most important? Great.

Donors’ will almost certainly be able to feel affinity with at least one of the crowdfunding campaigns. Of course the almost overload of campaigns – there are hundreds out there – means choosing one (or a few) to donate to can be very difficult. There are winners and losers on crowdfunding websites, with some causes having barely raised any money.

Another issue is there is a lack of global search tags that link all the earthquake relief campaigns together. Consequently collating all campaign pages across websites to make it easier for donors is very difficult. Those affected by natural disasters would reap the rewards of such work.

The lack of cohesion is evident when comparing other non traditional fundraisers. Facebook, through a direct donation button has raised over $10 million USD, and will contribute an additional $2 million.

It is important to remember the amount raised through crowdfunding, while playing a vital role, is not going to come close to the estimated $10 billion required to rebuild Nepal. The millions raised from crowdfunding will target specific causes and make a real impact in those communities. But the problem of rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure is far out of crowdfunding’s reach.

In the past Nepal would have not the worldwide support it is currently experiencing, nor the targeted support to specific communities in need. Traditional charities would have been doing a lot of work to raise money, consequently using up valuable funds just to get the money to those affected.

The  role crowdfunding will play in natural disaster relief is only going to increase. Crowdfunding’s outreach to those in this increasingly technological world is an asset to those in need. With the amount crowdfunded for Nepal already greater than any other natural disaster, the future is a little bit brighter for those affected by the earthquake.


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