News and analysis
October 12, 2017

Big Donors Favor Tex. Over Puerto Rico in Hurricane Relief, Chronicle Data Shows

Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton, U.S. Air Force
Puerto Rico has suffered severe damage from Hurricane Maria, but it has received far less in donations from the rich than Texas has in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Wealthy donors, big foundations, and corporations have given a total of nearly $105 million so far to hurricane relief and rebuilding efforts in Texas, the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, according to a Chronicle tally.

The majority of that money has gone to help people affected by the floods in Texas: of The Chronicle’s total, only $17 million has gone to relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Those figures capture only contributions of $1 million or more. They do not include money raised for hurricane relief through smaller gifts.

Support to aid people suffering under Hurricanes Irma and Maria — the latter of which hit an already struggling Puerto Rico in late September — has been smaller and slower to build, at least among the richest donors.

Smaller Donors Step Up

Midlevel and smaller donors, however, are stepping up to give to both Harvey and Maria relief efforts, according to giving figures provided by Network for Good and GlobalGiving, which serve as hubs for online donations to hundreds of charities, Data from Network for Good shows:

  • Individuals gave $14.7 million during the last week of August after Hurricane Harvey touched down in Texas, more than four times more than during the same week in 2016.
  • People contributed $14.2 million during the final week of September, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and parts of the Caribbean, three times higher than the same week last year.
  • Hurricane Irma, which primarily affected Florida and portions of the Caribbean, did not cause a rise in donations over 2016.

GlobalGiving has collected nearly $600,000 more for victims of Hurricane Maria than for those affected by Hurricane Harvey:

  • Donors have given nearly $4.8 million to GlobalGiving’s Hurricane Maria efforts compared with almost $4.2 million to help survivors of Harvey.
  • Gifts to the group’s Hurricane Irma fund total $1.8 million.

Wide Range of Gifts

Broadly speaking, the contributions GlobalGiving has recorded for the 2017 hurricanes range from under $100 to more than $100,000, with most individual donors giving $100 or less. A Network for Good official said that even on the heaviest fundraising days, $72 was the average gift for hurricane relief.

  • GlobalGiving received 21,201 Hurricane Harvey donations of under $100, totaling nearly $650,000, and more than 680 donations of $1,000 to just under $10,000, totaling more than $1.2 million.
  • It has recorded more than 21,420 Hurricane Maria gifts of under $100, totaling more than $717,000, and at least 769 of $1,000 to $9,999, totaling more than $1.1 million.

Both groups continue to raise money to aid those affected by the three hurricanes, so the numbers are likely to rise.

So far donor fatigue doesn’t seem to have set in. Officials at GlobalGiving said 7.2 percent of people who gave to victims of one hurricane (or the earthquake in Mexico, which happened around the same time) have also given to other recent disasters, and the site hasn’t seen a decrease in donation rates between its Sierra Leone mudslide appeals in August and its Harvey, Irma, and Mexico appeals in September.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.