“If You Have a Giving Heart”: The Framing of Post-Disaster Need and Donations

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
Samantha PENTA , Disaster Research Center, Newark, DE
Mary NELAN , University of Delaware
Tricia WACHTENDORF , University of Delaware, Newark, DE
The material convergence that occurs in disaster-affected areas is well documented, as are the associated complications that arise.  Among these challenges, research has documented the arrival of donations in excess of the need, of material donations instead of monetary contributions, and the donation of items inappropriate in the time, place, or cultural context (Holguin-Veras et al. 2007; Neal 1993; Neal 1994; Rodriguez et al. 2006).  Despite the discrepancy between what is needed and what is donated, people continue to make these kinds of contributions.  This paper examines the subjective meanings and understandings people who participate in disaster relief give to donations and need.  Using Entman’s (1993) definition of framing, this research examines how donors frame post-disaster needs, including their problem definitions, causal explanations, moral evaluations, and treatment recommendations, as well as what information and sources inform those frames.  Preliminary analysis suggests that participants frequently construct involvement in disaster relief as a moral obligation, though the source of that moral obligation can vary in form, including religious motivation, the mission of the organization to which they are a member, or a personal connection to the area. The donation is not only the treatment recommendation to meet a subjective construction of need developed by internal rationale and information attributed to other sources.  Some view the donation of material goods specifically as a treatment for the perceived problem of recipient misuse of monetary donations (be they a disaster relief organization or the individual identifying as a disaster victim).  Though not always explicitly stated, participants see the cause of the need as external to those affected by the disaster.  Donations are determined accordingly based on these frames.  Thus, how these frames are constructed has implications for disaster response.