Last Friday’s New York Times included an excellent article by Ariel Kaminer on giving to Haitian recovery. It includes two questions that my colleagues and I have been answering since the crisis began:
- “What about in-kind donations?”
The article tells of a store in New York City where generous patrons donated food, clothing, and water for Haiti. “By early last week, the donations had been stacked into huge piles, and a plan had come into view: the store would lead a delegation of 25 people to Haiti, to rescue the children stranded at the Life for the World orphanage in the town of Source Matelas. Doctors, nurses and anyone else who wanted to come would each carry two large suitcases stuffed with food and medical supplies.” Logistics, however, were a problem. Toting pounds of donations in suitcases was problematic, and “no one was sure if they would even be allowed to enter Haiti.”
At GuideStar, we advise people that monetary gifts are more effective in the early days after a disaster. Even if your in-kind gifts do get to the scene, they may not be what’s need most right there, right then. If you feel compelled to give things rather than money, be sure to give them to an organization that can get them where they are needed most.
- “The best charities are the ones where most of the donations go to the cause, not administration, right?”
If you have been reading this blog for a while or are familiar with GuideStar’s stand on financial ratios, you already know our answer to this question. Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, expressed our point of view perfectly in the NYT article: “What really matters in this situation is not their ratio of overhead to other expenses. … It’s their experience and record of having impact in Haiti.”
The tragedy in Haiti has inspired outstanding dialogues on giving wisely and measuring impact. I hope that these lessons stay with us long after Haiti and its citizens are on the road to recovery.
The preceding is a guest post Bob Ottenhoff, Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.