I have been watching a lot of coverage about the 6 month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti and it is awful. Nothing is happening. People are still living on the streets, roads are not built and hurricane season is fast approaching. Where are the funds that were raised to facilitate the recovery? What is going on? Creative accounting? Diverting funds elsewhere? Sham entities? Government corruption?
Disasters can be goldmines for the unscrupulous whether they are charities or government bureaucrats. With every outpouring of generosity there are tales of fraud, fake victims, fine print loopholes and official corruption. There are websites alleging to be those of legitimate organizations, or legitimate organizations trying to benefit from disaster fund-raising who aren't really helping. Confusion, both deliberate and accidental is everywhere. We are a people that always respond to pleas for help, yet how many times can we hear of these disappointments and still continue to give. As one who runs a charity, I can tell you, I am disturbed by this. spcaLA's animals depend upon the kindness of strangers and philanthropic citizens as does any vulnerable group. If those who can give, stop, believing that they are not making a difference, what will happen to those in need?
Rather than souring on giving, research the situation, ask questions and make sure your gift is going to whom and where you so intend. (For example - the animal welfare world has no umbrella organization. Funds to ASPCA and HSUS are not distributed by donor zip-code as is the case with other nonprofit models. There are no chapters. In fact, both have been asked to simply provide meaningful disclosure on their ads to avoid confusion - and both have refused) Rather than getting upset that you gave in response to a commercial that you believed suggested that your gift would be local and thus donated to an organization that did not fulfill your intention - research the charity. Rather than feeling fooled or ripped off that you sent funds and people are still suffering - research the entity responsible for distribution and recovery measures. Absent a catastrophic occurrence like an earthquake or 911, donating to a local organization that you can visit, talk to, and just see in action is reassuring to the donor.
Often, even a local charity that you know and trust may be providing international relief as well. Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live. New Yorkers reading this may recall the tag line for Sy Sims clothing - "An educated consumer is our best customer." Ultimately this is the best advice and a policy which ensures satisfaction all around. It is especially true in these horrid economic times where the philanthropic entities are filling essential financial and service gaps left by the government and for-profit sectors and who desperately need help to keep up with the demand. If the reputable nonprofits fail - there will be no relief. Conversely, the combination of generosity and disaster can add up to a veritable "candy store" for the unprincipled, greedy and the opportunistic.
I sincerely hope that the citizens of Haiti receive the monies meant for them - I hope that this is so for their sakes, and for those in need everywhere.