September 11, 2001 had an enormous impact on nearly every aspect of American life -- including the way we reacted to later tragedies. Aaron Smith of CNNMoney recently wrote an article on how September 11 appears to have inspired Americans to give more generously for later tragic events, and how it helped charitable organizations better prepare to respond when other disasters occurred.
The following chart from Smith's article shows the level of American donations to help victims of the September 11th attack, the South Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.
Smith suggests that the "years of experience that charitable organizations acquired in the wake of September 11 set the stage for an even more generous outpouring" than otherwise might have been expected when another significant disaster took place. Nonprofits continue to learn how to react quickly and make appeals for public support, using newer methods like online fundraising and mobile giving to tap into the immediate attention and concern generated by news reports of the devastation caused and the people affected.
Private and corporate foundations also appear more willing to respond quickly following a large-scale tragedy. Over the last decade, the Foundation Center has tracked information on the U.S. philanthropic response to major disasters:
- September 11
- South Asian Tsunami
- Gulf Coast hurricanes
- Haiti earthquake
- Japan earthquake and tsunami
On the tenth anniversary of September 11, it is natural to pause and look back -- to think about where you were, how you reacted, what we have learned, and how things changed as a result. We can only hope that we all continue to learn from the past in order to be better prepared to provide assistance and support whenever and wherever the need arises.