Amid Record Number of Disasters, Majority of Americans Plan to Add Disaster Relief to Their Holiday Charitable Causes

Amid Record Number of Disasters, Majority of Americans Plan to Add Disaster Relief to Their Holiday Charitable Causes

NEW YORK, Nov. 16, 2017 – With 2017 on track to set a new record for the number of natural disasters in the U.S. costing billions of dollars, Americans have already donated millions to support disaster relief for such events as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and the California wildfires. Yet a new survey from Ketchum Purpose shows that Americans are willing to dig deeper into their pockets for worthy causes as they begin their holiday shopping.

The Disaster Relief Holiday Giving survey found that 40 percent of Americans surveyed plan to donate to disaster relief this holiday season, while another 32 percent have not ruled it out. Only 29 percent said they do not plan to do so. Among those who do plan to donate, the majority are doing it in addition to other seasonal spending – 82 percent say it will be in addition to their typical holiday charitable giving, and 70 percent say this added philanthropic expense will not replace their holiday gift-giving plans.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, 2017 is tied with 2011 for the most billion-dollar disasters year to date. Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 218 billion-dollar-or-higher weather and climate disasters, totaling more than $1.2 trillion in costs. This figure does not yet include Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which are still being assessed.

Among Americans, support of disaster relief climbed from No. 11 to No. 5 in overall interest between February and October 2017, according to a question on issues/causes that respondents are most interested in supporting personally, posed by Ketchum as part of an omnibus survey in February 2017 and again as part of this survey.

The Disaster Relief Holiday Giving survey also found that businesses’ corporate social responsibility efforts play an active role in how and whether people donate. Nearly half of consumers (48 percent) surveyed said they are more likely to buy holiday gifts from companies that support disaster preparedness and relief. And the two most common ways for people surveyed to make holiday donations – at point of sale and by purchasing products with proceeds going to a charity – are channels where businesses can directly influence how their customers interact with the brand or company.

“The findings affirm how generous Americans continue to be in the face of an unprecedented number of disasters,” said Monica Marshall, SVP and director, Ketchum Purpose. “What the survey also shows is the tremendous opportunity that companies have this holiday season to form a deeper connection with customers who appreciate the companies’ disaster relief efforts.”

There appears to be a strong opportunity in particular with millennials, who have been talked about as a generation that connects with causes. According to the survey, millennials (ages 21 to 36) stand out from Gen X (ages 37 to 52) and Boomers (ages 53 to 71). Millennials prefer to:

  • Give back during the holiday season by volunteering their time (39 percent), more so than Gen X (32 percent) or Boomers (24 percent).
  • Donate via social media (26 percent), more so than Gen X (16 percent) and Boomers (12 percent).
  • Donate by purchasing gifts with proceeds going to charity (72 percent), more so than Gen X (62 percent) or Boomers (48 percent).
  • Buy holiday gifts from a company supporting disaster preparedness and relief (54 percent, compared to 47 percent for Gen X and 38 percent for Boomers).

Millennials are also less likely to use cash when making donations (42 percent), versus Boomers (53 percent) and Gen X (47 percent).

Among those who do not plan to support disaster relief during the holidays, 63 percent of millennials said the reason is that they don’t have enough money to give to charities (compared to 49 percent of Gen X and 46 percent of Boomers).

To view the Disaster Relief Holiday Giving infographic or learn more about Ketchum Purpose, visit

About the Disaster Relief Holiday Giving Survey
The omnibus survey was conducted through an online survey of 1,256 Americans (general population). In partnership with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics, Research Now conducted the survey Oct. 17 to 22, 2017. When necessary, the numbers were weighted to be nationally representative (weighting is applied to age, gender, region, race/ethnicity, education, and income to be proportionally representative of the U.S. adult population). Some percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding. The margin of error for the sample of 1,256 is +/- 2.77% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins. Generational breaks by age align with Pew Research.

About Ketchum
Ketchum is a leading global communications firm with operations in more than 70 countries across six continents. The winner of 45 Cannes Lions and an unprecedented five PRWeek Campaign of the Year Awards, Ketchum partners with clients to deliver strategic programming, game-changing creative and measurable results that build brands and reputations. For more information on Ketchum, a part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, visit

About Omnicom Public Relations Group
Omnicom Public Relations Group
 is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, fashion, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,000 public relations professionals in more than 330 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and nonprofits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.


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