More refugees, fewer donations in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.10.2016
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More refugees, fewer donations in Germany

The worldwide refugee crisis is getting worse. Donation requests during the holiday season in Germany show that the plight of refugees is not a priority for donors. Germans prefer to help out in long-term aid projects.

How do Germans prioritize different charitable activities? What is more important to them, hurricane victims, war refugees, starving children, small farms or internally displaced persons? In Germany, financial aid for refugees is diminishing. Donations peaked at the end of last year, but now, analysts predict a decrease in 2016.

"This year, the debate on refugees is much more complex and controversial than it was 2015, which has had a negative effect on the willingness to donate," explained Burkhard Wilke, director of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI).

Revenues are declining. DZI certifies fundraising organizations that are willing to publish annual donation statements and allow financial audits. Wilke fears that not only revenues but also the number of donors will drop.

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Willingness to donate wanes

"Last year, people who normally do not give donated because of the refugees and they probably stopped this year," said Wilke.

Furthermore, it has become much more difficult to ask for donations because of the general population's weakening interest in religion. In Germany, religious organizations are traditionally involved in charity work.

The "Aktion Deutschland" organization, a relief agency that provides disaster relief, has figures to confirm this trend. The agency is an alliance of 24 aid organizations that provide disaster relief. Revenues for refugees in Germany - and worldwide - are falling.

At the height of the crisis last year between September and December, a total of 15.7 million euros ($17 million) was donated for refugees worldwide. In the first three quarters of 2016, only 1.6 million euros were raised by aid organizations, even though the number of refugees worldwide is growing.

The changing pattern of refugee aid in Germany reflects trends that have been noticed by global partner organizations. Compared with the 3.6 million euros raised between September and December 2015, only 524,000 were donated in the first nine months of 2016.

Records broken in 2015

"All current reports suggest that revenues for 2016 will drop by about 6 percent," said Andreas Lohman, head of the fundraising department of the Catholic relief organization Misereor, adding that after the "excessively good year 2015," this is a normal fluctuation.

In Germany,  a record sum of 6.7 billion euros came from private donors in 2016 - 117 million euros of the total were donated specifically for refugees in Germany and throughout the world, while 116 million euros were raised for earthquake victims in Nepal.

Figures presented by Aktion Deutschland help describe a trend. Initial estimates for revenues in 2016 will be available on November 17 when the German donation agency (Der Deutsche Spendenmonitor) publishes its survey results. The annual statement for 2016 will be released in April of next year.

Ehemalige Kindersoldaten werden resozialisert (DW/C.Ngunyi)

Many Germans choose to donate to long-term projects like helping rehabilitate former child soldiers

Small farms and not war victims

Word has gotten around that the desire to donate to the refugee cause is waning. In the usual year-end appeals for donations, traditional aid projects have taken the spotlight in Germany.

Germany's Welthungerhilfe, an organization that fights hunger worldwide, is promoting aid for small farms in Laos, while Caritas International, the global section of the German Catholic aid agency, is promoting their project for the resocialization of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Aktion Deutschland is raising funds for children in disaster areas.

"Many people feel that long-term projects are more effective than short-term funding for refugees," said Simone Pott, spokeswoman for Welthungerhilfe. Many older donors volunteer for refugee projects but they put their money in traditional development cooperation.

Haiti humanitäre Hilfe am Flughafen in Port-au-Prince (Reuters/J. Junior Augustin)

Disaster relief makes up only a small part of donations

Disaster relief over refugee aid

Like many aid organizations, Welthungerhilfe believes in a dual strategy. At Christmas time, the organization sends donation requests for long-term aid projects but on its website, Welthungerhilfe asks for aid for the people fleeing Mosul and for hurricane victims in Haiti. Despite the media's focus on wars and natural disasters, DZI states that 90 percent of donations from Germany go to traditional aid projects.

"Disasters like Syria or Haiti make up only a small part of emergency aid donations, which in turn, are only a small part of the sum of donations," explained DZI director Wilke.

According to experts, people in Germany should be donating more, which means that refugees would also receive more help. According to the "World Giving Index 2015" survey, 49 percent of Germany's population donates compared with 73 percent in the Netherlands.

"In Germany, we have not succeeded in making the subject accessible to the non-donating part of the population," admitted Wilke. "The widespread notion that the money does not reach the needy anyway is not true. We have to make that clear."

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