Sao Jose do Mipibi (RN), 11/28/2023 - RAINS/RIO/ALAGAMENTOS/RN - River overflows over Br 101 in Sao Jose do Mipibu Rio Grande do Norte, which has the largest volume in Brazil and in the capital - Natal RN several flooding points were recorded. Mayor Alvaro Dias declared a state of emergency. (Foto: José Aldenir/Thenews2/Deposit Photos)

73% of young people (aged 18-29) believe that companies have a responsibility to donate to disaster relief funds, as compared to lower expectations from older age groups. However rather than wishing to deflect responsibility onto employers, young people – also more likely to suffer from climate anxiety – are more willing to personally contribute themselves.

This finding has emerged as part of a survey with over 1,000 participants into the psychology of giving to disaster relief, conducted by GlobalGiving UK and Professor Hanna Zagefka, Professor of Psychology at Royal Holloway University of London.

In a time of increasingly frequent and high-profile humanitarian and environmental crises, the findings demonstrate changing expectations around corporate giving. Respondents were also asked about their perceptions of donations given by companies and governments to a range of disaster relief causes supported by GlobalGiving: a fund for those affected by the 2023 Libya floods, a relief fund for the Ukraine crisis and one for the Israel-Palestine crisis. Respondents generally rated the responsibility of governments and companies as higher than their perceptions of donations actually provided; possibly demonstrating a lack of confidence in companies and governments.

GlobalGiving UK also looked at how beliefs about climate change and climate anxiety impact donations. Young people are more likely to express high levels of anxiety (21%) compared to those in the 30-49 and over 50 categories (14% and 6% respectively). Women also reported more anxiety than men. Young women in particular reported the highest levels of worry, with almost 1 in 4 reporting high levels of climate anxiety.

90% of those classed as having high climate anxiety are motivated to donate to people affected by climate-change-related events, compared with 58% of those in the low climate anxiety group. However, while demonstrating the connection between climate anxiety and a desire to donate, the data suggests that emphasising the link between the climate crisis and a certain disaster, in fact reduces motivation to donate to this cause.

Reflecting on the findings, Prof. Zagefka said: “The results clearly indicate that messages designed to increase donations must be carefully tested for unintended consequences. It is possible that us emphasising climate change in this study dampened donations because this made participants feel overall more threatened and worried, and people who feel threatened might have a tendency to ‘bunker down’ rather than to reach out to others”.

Alex Ritchie, CEO of GlobalGiving UK, said: “Our findings show that as the frequency of disaster events increases as a result of climate change and other threats, businesses should be sensitive to employees’ concerns and expectations, and charities to the potential for complex psychological responses to disaster events. 

However, we do know that being able to donate rapidly following disasters can help address feelings of powerlessness – and GlobalGiving supports this by enabling businesses and individuals to support vetted local partners, who are closest to the communities affected by disaster events.”