My post on cognitive aspects around charitable giving provoked a reply from Elver. The discussion continued in the comments there, from where I’d like to aggregate another thought that seems to be contextually important.
Getting funding for a charity is all about optics and active marketing to achieve it. Madelaine and Colin McRae are (were?) world famous, heavily pushed brands. Anonymous dying kids and anonymous flying tourists are not.
Read a great column by Clive Thompson in Wired’s September issue on how big numbers (and lack of numeracy there) affects people’s charity decisions.
He studies a troubling paradox in human empathy: We’ll usually race to help a single stranger in dire straits, while ignoring huge numbers of people in precisely the same plight. We’ll donate thousands of dollars to bring a single African war orphan to the US for lifesaving surgery, but we don’t offer much money or political pressure to stop widespread genocides in Rwanda or Darfur.
The problem isn’t a moral failing: It’s a cognitive one.