The repair of DNA damage requires the ordered recruitment of many different proteins that are responsible for signaling and subsequent repair. A powerful and widely used tool for studying the orchestrated accumulation of these proteins at damage sites is laser microirradiation in live cells, followed by monitoring the accumulation of the fluorescently labeled protein in question. Despite the widespread use of this approach, there exists no rigorous method for characterizing the recruitment process quantitatively. Here, we introduce a diffusion model that explicitly accounts for the unique sizes and shapes of individual nuclei and uses two variables: Deff, the effective coefficient of diffusion, and F, the fraction of mobile protein that accumulates at sites of DNA damage. Our model quantitatively describes the accumulation of three test proteins, poly-ADP-ribose polymerases 1 and 2 (PARP1/2) and histone PARylation factor 1. Deff for PARP1, as derived by our approach, is 6× greater than for PARP2 and in agreement with previous literature reports using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. Our data indicate that histone PARylation factor 1 arrives at sites of DNA damage independently of either PARP. Importantly, our model, which can be applied to existing data, allows for the direct comparison of the coefficient of diffusion for any DNA repair protein between different cell types, obtained in different laboratories and by different methods, and also allows for the interrogation of cell-to-cell variability.