In this paper, the December 2004 tsunami tragedy was used as a background to investigate beliefs about intergroup helping. The general aim of the research was to test the proposal that helping can be used to reaffirm a threatened social identity. Two experiments conducted with Dutch participants (N = 78 and N = 73) tested the hypothesis that a threatened Dutch national identity would result in stronger preferences for help to the victims of the tsunami, but only in a domain that is positively and distinctly related to that national identity (i.e. water management). Results from both studies confirmed this hypothesis. Study 2 also showed a reversal of this effect in a domain negatively related to that identity. Moreover, perceived identity threat in Study 2 reduced over time in the high threat condition but not in the low threat condition, and this reduction was positively associated with the endorsement of water management help. Also, as predicted, in both studies a threatened national identity resulted in stronger beliefs that Dutch relief organisations should stay in control over their aid. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.