The Japanese Earthquake: How You (and Your Listeners) Can Help

Posted on March 14, 2011


One place radio has always shined is finding ways to help people affected by devastating circumstances such as the tragic earthquake and tsunami Japan experienced on Friday.

There are a number of ways you can rally your audience to help out but there are also a number of pitfalls to avoid.

Do This:

Work with Established Organizations: The obvious choice is the Red Cross; the most trusted and recognized international relief organization. Other good options include:, Save the Children,  Doctors without Borders and International Medical Corps.

Send a Text: If you don’t want to execute a fundraiser a simple option is to promote the idea of donating by text message. Send the word REDCROSS to 90999 or send Japan to 50555 to  donate $10 to the Red Cross or respectively. 

Look for Unique Content: Doctors without Borders already has a team in the devastated area.  It may be possible to get a first hand account from a team member or at least a report with more detail that most for your show. Contact press officer Emily Linedoll at or 212-763-5764. 

Localize the Story: Check with local hospitals to see if anyone from their staff is going to the area. If so, find a way to stay in touch with them. If there is a large asian population in your market reach out to cultural centers and other support organizations. There may be a way to help out locally that could really resonate with your audience.

Promote Other Efforts: There are bound be a number of unique ways for listeners to support relief efforts. Already the social-gaming company Zynga is donating 100% of the purchase price of plots of sweet potatoes on Farmville; Lady Gaga is encouraging fans to buy “We Pray for Japan” wristbands; and iTunes is accepting donations for the Red Cross.

Don’t Do This:

Donate to Unfamiliar Organizations: Unfortunately, there will be people who try to take advantage of the situation with fake fundraisers, Web sites and organizations. Be wary of anyone who approaches you personally for professionally asking for donations to a group you aren’t familiar with. 

Ask for Goods Instead of Money: There will be a huge need for diapers, bottled water and other essentials but shipping them overseas costs much more than buying them regionally. Stick to cash donations which are more effective. 

Don’t make jokes:  As brightly as radio generally shines in situations like these invariably there will be one story of an airtalent who makes light of the situation. There is nothing funny about this. Don’t make what my friend Chad Haldeman used to call a “career limiting decision.”