Op-Ed Columnist - Would You Let This Girl Drown? - NYTimes.com:
"Professor Peter Singer of Princeton explores why we’re so willing to try to assist a stranger before us, while so unwilling to donate to try to save strangers from malaria half a world away.
One of the reasons, I believe, is that humanitarians are abjectly ineffective at selling their causes. Any brand of toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups. Do-gooders also have a penchant for exaggeration, so that the public often has more trust in the effectiveness of toothpaste than of humanitarian aid.
There’s growing evidence that jumping up and down about millions of lives at stake can even be counterproductive. A number of studies have found that we are much more willing to donate to one needy person than to several. In one experiment, researchers solicited donations for a $300,000 fund that in one version would save the life of one child, and in another the lives of eight children. People contributed more when the fund would save only one life.
“The more who die, the less we care.” That’s the apt title of a forthcoming essay by Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who has pioneered this field of research."
So maybe we should not tell of all the people we help, just find one good story. I will say that has been my experience (consider the biggest not planned event last year. Why did we get so many volunteers? It was to help a single 80 year old. That was the story that got the volunteers. Not continuing the work in Friendship or Allegany. Sort of depressing to think about in that light.