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Modeling the impact of donor behavior on humanitarian aid operations

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Whether in-kind or cash, coordinated help organizations such as the American Red Cross, count on donations to help those in need when and after disasters happen. Yet, it has been observed that the type (in-kind versus cash) and the quality of donations largely impact the success of meeting urgent demand in humanitarian operations. In particular, unsolicited items hamper the synchronization of logistical operations and hence may create more problems than solutions. This research sheds light on the behavioral and decision making aspects of a donor while developing analytical models of how that behavior can be influenced by soliciting a minimum amount of cash donation, which in turn mitigates the negative impact of unsolicited items. We investigate the literature on donor psychology and feed those extant findings to the analytical model. We provide explicit expressions for the optimal solicitation amount and the impact of that amount on maximizing the donor’s likelihood to donate cash, as opposed to in-kind items. Also provided are some execution insights through extensive sensitivity analysis.

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Correspondence to M. Ali Ülkü.

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Ülkü, M.A., Bell, K.M. & Wilson, S.G. Modeling the impact of donor behavior on humanitarian aid operations. Ann Oper Res 230, 153–168 (2015).

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