Red Cross flags flutter in the wind.
Red Cross flags flutter in the wind. - 
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Kai Ryssdal: The American Red Cross is collecting donations for Japan. Almost $2 million has been raised so far by people making $10 contributions from their cell phones.

Companies are doing their bit. U.S. businesses have have promised more than $50 million for the relief effort. Money that has to come from someplace.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports.

Jeff Tyler: Following natural disasters, drug company Abbott has often donated products like antibiotics or rehydration solutions. But Abbott spokesperson Kathy Pickus says Japan is different.

Kathy Pickus: After speaking with all of our relief partners and those engaged in the response, they requested cash.

Abbott is donating about $3 million. General Electric has pledged $5 million. Goldman Sachs: $6 million.

Stephen Jordan tracks corporate philanthropy at the Business Civic Leadership Center, a nonprofit affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen Jordan: You can already see this is going to rival Haiti. Just, if it had already peaked, it's going to be up there. And I don't think it's peaked at all.

If corporate donations continue at this pace, Jordan says the financial response will be the second biggest in history, behind the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004. But sometimes companies can be too generous.

Curt Weedon is the author of "Smart Giving is Good Business." He says corporations should resist raiding a budget that supports a local hospital or arts group.

Curt Weedon: You're taking out of one pocket to support a crisis in Japan out of someone else's pocket that otherwise would have been receiving the money.

Some companies are providing incentives for individuals to get involved too. For example, a donation to the Red Cross will earn you mileage points on American Airlines. And CitiGroup is waiving fees on wire transfers to Japan.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace