The greatest mystery for me is why the major media outlets keep advising well intended Americans to give to the Red Cross. If any of us operated like the Red Cross has for years the media would be screaming for our prosecution as it should. Why not the Red Cross? And worse, why do they encourage hard working and generous Americans to give to an organization about whom there is public knowledge of extreme abuse of billions of donated dollars ?!" - Hotes Foundation
NGOs: They pay their employees heaps of money, to do relatively small amounts of work. These aren't the people we see on TV who get out there to work 12 hour days and save lives. These are people who go there because they need a job and like traveling. They're the people who get the office jobs. These are all young people who spend massive amounts of time and money on leisure. Most of this money ends up in the pockets of already rich Haitians, like restaurant owners and rental agencies. The UN seems to be one of the worst at this. I've seen UN people living in $4000 a month houses full of Apple stuff and expensive cooking equipment. They would write reports that were then dismissed by the government.
Corruption: A lot of NGOs try to work with local organizations to get stuff done. This is good, because it gives the locals a chance to earn money by working to rebuild their country. However, what often happens is that higher-ups in these organizations disappear with donated money, or just suddenly have new cars. This is actually quite a big problem there, since the country seems to be inherently corrupt, something I've seen multiple times during my short stay there.
From my experience, Haiti feels a lot like a failed state and most people I've spoken don't think there will be any improvement in the next couple of decades. They're also fearful of what would happen if the UN were to leave, since they'd lose a massive inflow of money and the poor might revolt, causing for even more chaos.
Also, well funded NGOs over here often tend to have significant government-based revenue streams, which can discourage activism on the fundamentals (which government might not agree with).
I do not question the dedication of local workers I've met, but the larger issue with respect to foreign aid is what happens to the money "in country" when it comes time to distribute goods or get things done in the local economy.
Text ##### to donate $5 to GiveWell, which will channel your funds to the charity measurably best equipped to alleviate human suffering like (but not exactly like) the suffering caused by this disaster.
On the other hand, there was outrage after 9/11 when donated blood was diverted to other needs. Some donors apparently wanted all 475,000 units of donated blood to be used specifically to treat 9/11 victims (who required in total something like 200-300 units of blood, which was available in existing stocks).
One of the best things we could do would be to convince people that suffering is suffering and helping is fungible.
And yes, I did look it up. It's a tiny private foundation about which almost nothing is known, and the quoted articles are basically trash talking based on a couple of news stories and saying basically "see how much better it is to give to us?" except (in theory) they don't accept donations they want people to go in person to disaster sites and help on site.
I think there is a social effect, but more likely because the people working at Red Cross has better reach to the big organizations and media outlet, despite the backlashes.
The same with World Health Organization (WHO). Top officials still buy luxury first-class ticket and hotel room. Why? Whatnis wrong with an econ seat?
I don't know the actual reason. But it could be because of the religious connection. While I've seen that the Salvation Army has done a lot of good, they also connect it with their belief system. This makes me uneasy.
Fundamentally I'd be happy to donate to a charity that I knew would:
- Responsibly manage the funds
- Ensure that those in need actually get the funds or directly funds activities for those in need (i.e shelter, food, etc)
- Not turn around and then spend significant fractons (or, in some cases, multiples) of the donated amount in trying to get more donations from me/other donors.
- Not connect the donations / activities with a religious belief system
Unfortunately those seem few and far between.
You get a lot of "secular" charities that rake in a lot of money and yet don't produce much in the way of results (White Ribbon, for example), and you also see a lot of religious charities that have big budgets and also produce good results (Salvos are a good example of this).
Not to say this is the rule by any stretch, but it does seem to be a readily observable trend.
One of them always gave away free soap bars, so that locals could sell them on the markets. Those guys are astonishing- my deepest respect to everyone who toured with them.
Also -if you look as NGOs, who get into troubles as a quality sign (if your NGO workers get into the thick of things, they are where people really need help), Doctors without borders are always where it hurts. (Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia).
I think you can easily remove "outside of religion" and have this statement stand.
There are far too many examples of supposedly "charitable" religious organisations working almost entirely to benefit their own directors/employees.
The main focus of some of these churches is to organize volunteer operations, staff community outreach programs, and building things besides new sanctuaries. No one is getting rich at these places, so there is little publicity. But I wish more people were aware sometimes, if for no other reason than to know there are positive places to donate your time and money if it doesn't rub you the wrong way.
Now, I think it's great that Apple encourages and enables donations after major disasters, but I wish they were a bit more selective in their choice of recipient.
I think it is very plausible that the Red Cross didn't bribe the right people or underestimated the depth of bribes it would take to get anything done. By the time they looked up, the money was gone and nothing was done and they dug their hole deeper by lying, probably expecting the local officials to back up their story. Instead, they threw them under the bus in order to attract more spending.
Edit: Based on the downvotes, I'm guessing I wasn't really clear what I was going for - I hadn't heard about the International Committee before, so I was looking for some more information about how they differ.
In the US, the phrase "Red Cross" often is used to refer to "American Red Cross", which is the national society who deliver blood services and local disaster response. They've come under some criticism for apparent lack of transparency around how donations are spent, and for allegedly having very high overheads.
The IFRC (International Federation) is an international organisation that facilitates cooperation between the independent national societies.
The ICRC (International Committee) is a large international organisation whose mandate derives from the Geneva Convention, and whose work is focussed on armed conflict. They work with war casualties, prisoners of war, refugees, civilian victims of all forms, on any and all sides of conflict. They also help coordinate disaster relief in lots of cases just because they have the organisational ability to do it. In my opinion they're among the most trustworthy organisations that you could give to.
They are also borderline abusive with how often they will call you and harass you if you miss an opportunity to donate blood. They apparently have unlimited funds to pay phone operators.
I tried to give blood ONCE and found out that I was ineligible. For the next five years or so they harassed me non stop about giving blood. I told them I was ineligible they just said "ok" but I still got phonecalls. I asked them to stop calling me but they didn't stop. After a while I would just hang up on them. I got the phonecalls to stop by emailing the ombudsman. Never got a reply but the phonecalls stopped shortly after.
I recently decided to stop giving them blood, however, because I was actually reading the fine print for once, and apparently they send your blood off for use in research at universities and you cannot opt out.
Anyways, long story short, I will be using my local blood organizations from now on, or just going directly to the hospital to donate.
Thirty seconds later, the phone would ring again. "Hi, is Duncan there?" Repeat a third time for my other brother. For years. I think it's stopped now, so it didn't quite last a decade (though maybe it did for my older brother).
The Blood Center of Central Texas, on the other hand, stopped calling the first time I asked them to. Once they stopped, I resumed donating regularly.
All that aside, I highly recommend donating blood regularly--it has health benefits and is a pretty effective form of charity.
I redirected it to Google Voice and configured their numbers to go straight to voicemail. I figure if they have anything important to tell me, they'll leave a message.
Well... my dad volunteered in various relief operations during the Balkan conflicts (Bosnia first and Kosovo later, raising and delivering aid as well as coordinating localised rebuild efforts). As a result, his opinion of Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières went way down. According to him, RC activities are routinely used for on-the-ground intelligence gathering and operations by most states involved, a lot of RC people are basically civil servants or straight out spies, and the org often discriminates on religious grounds in many ways (this was particularly relevant in Bosnia, where aid operations were effectively compartmentalised by faith); and MSF is only a career vehicle for a lot of people. Also according to him, a lot of volunteers in any org are simply out for easy sex, abusing their position of privilege with the local population - and often ignoring details like age of consent.
We had a big row once, where I basically proposed that supranational orgs like those will inevitably become more and more key as disasters and wars get bigger and longer, and that scale helps dealing with these scenarios. He was extremely skeptical. This said, he still raises money for a smaller NGO every year.
Obviously this is anecdote, but I bring it just to point out that critical outlooks on RC and other big "relief institutions" do exist, although they rarely coalesce in anything particularly scandalous or front-page worthy.
I tried to look into it one time and find things written by people who watched from up close. It made me physically ill long before I looked at any substantial number of them.
I think the usual formula is to "pay" the CEO 200 k and spending the rest on ever larger promotion cycles.
What is needed in the west is a huge tax on charities and other non-profits to be entirely used to monitor their activities. Then we need to write draconian laws forcing them to insure and guarantee delivery.
Any sign of failure should result in persecution and the entire staff replaced - since we have plenty of volunteers.
We need to raise the standards like that to the point where government can safely pump funds into the mechanism when a situation calls for it.
I don't want to be called, receive letters and fill out paper work. I have better things to do. I'd much rather spend 50 bucks in [extra] tax for aid than suffering 2 hours of promotion to fund promotion every year.
When is gates going to provide drinking water to the entire world? Never? Then lets put him in prison and salvage the fund.
Nah. Just remove charitable donations from being tax-exempts, and then it's no longer a problem for the government when charities don't deliver, but a private problem of their donors.
The Red Cross I know of here in the UK and throughout the world (as far as I knew) are a fantastic, hard-working organisation that provide all sorts of disaster relief and humanitarian aid in warzones and ... well they do great stuff.
That the American Red Cross might be sullying the name of charity through its actions, let alone the name "Red Cross" is a terrible shame.
If someone donated $6k on our site now, 100% of that goes towards local materials cost, labor, and sometimes the land for the home.
We have a separate bank account to fund salaries, R&D, etc. Therefore, donors have the option to give directly to a home/family (which we show you the digital profile of that family and a move-in video), or a donor can choose to give to our "Builders fund" that covers salaries, R&D, travel, etc. We ask for minimum donations of $25k/ for 3 years to join the Builders fund.
I completely understand the "marketing scheme" some have mentioned. We really don't view it that way. If someone gives to homes, it's absolutely restricted to go towards building homes. If a donor gives specifically to an innovation project we're working on, their donation is restricted towards that project.
Happy to answer any other questions.
My kneejerk reaction is: local labor!? local materials!? So inefficient! But I'm wrong. You're doing exactly what's needed; bootstrapping skills and contributing towards the local economy.
I'm curious how much housing is still needed in Haiti, how much more money into the pipeline would fix the problem, etc. Would you be able to scale beyond Haiti? Sorry to ramble, love the mission!
Unfortunately, something like that can still be used for evil in many ways. Say your container full of cans gets delivered to Port Disaster and stored in customs; the local docks boss (be it a warlord or local leader) gets wind of it and refuses to release it unless his palms are greased. The org will be forced to pay, otherwise all effort will be for nought, food will rot etc. Charitable gifts will then help fostering the blackmail and corruption economies that wars and disasters inevitably create, rather than relieving the honest one. But then again, so would random "cash rain".
There is no magic bullet, all solutions have their downside. Operating in crisis scenarios is a constant moral maze.
> We send 100% of all donations directly to hire local workers and buy local materials so you know exactly where your donation is going.
Considering their Careers page lists they are hiring a software engineer, I dug a little further and found this info in their FAQ:
> How Does New Story Fund Operational Costs With A 100% Promise?
> We are committed to putting every cent of donor contributions to the building of homes. We fund our day-to-day operations by generous contributions from corporate investors and private individuals. Also, a majority of our incredible donors opt-in and add 10% onto their donation to fund New Story operations. If you are interested in investing in our organization, so we can serve even more families, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FAQ mentions an investment opportunity, though I'm not sure what the investment is, besides charity social goodwill -- which of course, is a great thing.
Like, the money going towards operations is still donated. The page about the operations money even puts it in terms of having 2 bank accounts: https://newstorycharity.org/the-builders/
So fine, they are able to advertise that they are spending 100% of certain funds on programs. But it is just a marketing gimmick, they still have some overall efficiency, just like any other charity.
It surely has to help stop bureaucratic creep. You're forced to run lean and efficiently in the administration.
Surely the large contributors have some concern for that ratio.
Of course I think of matching campaigns the same way (as a gimmick). If you are willing to donate $10,000, why not blare out that you are matching $10,000 instead of just donating it.
Obviously many companies match for the marketing, but besides that, they're also convincing others to donate. It's like giving people a "50% discount" on their donations. If the matchers believe in the cause, why wouldn't they match rather than just donate?
(a sibling comment to yours points out that the separate accounting can help create good incentives, which could well be the case, but looking backward, there is still an efficiency that can be calculated and compared to other charities)
o=overhead donations (min of 25k)
donations received = o+a;
donated % used for charitable cause = a*100/(o+a)
Marketing gimmick is certainly a cynical take.
He claims that foreign aid and charities that raise tons of money from Western people for different projects in Africa are a total waste of money. The amount of corruption and waste is so huge that majority of the money people from US or EU donate ends up going directly to local strongmen who buy new cars etc and almost none of the money ends with the people it was intended for.
This is why I don't donate to charities. I believe for every dollar I would donate perhaps $0.1 would actually reach the destination and be spent on helping people. I'd rather donate directly to people in need after I meet them and can see that they are legit and there aren't several layers of middlemen leaching off the donated money.
No, 70% of foreign aid is not 'stolen off the top'
How Much Aid is Really Lost to Corruption?
Where does aid money really go -- and what is it spent on?
While there are large issues on the way foreign aid is distributed, including corruption and more recently local NGOs being sidelined, it's nowhere near close to your "perhaps $0.1" estimate of reaching locals. The idea that almost all the assistance is wasted is not only untrue, but harmful.
I'm not a fan of funding more chuggers on my high street.
And then how much is spent on the head office, and the executive pay and a whole load of other things that get hidden in a bunch of different buckets?
But either way, from the graphic you linked it seems like on average, more than 75% of the money you give to these charities ends up being used for charitable activities, with the larger part of the remaining money used to raise more funds. Fundraisers on the high street are occasionally annoying, but I'd be extremely surprised if they are the largest drain on that remaining 25%, particularly compared to other efforts.
On a personal note, I have no major issue with them (except agreeing that they are often annoying), wouldn't change my opinion on foreign aid or charity over them and cant help but feel that anyone not donating because a percentage of their donation would go towards their salaries is looking for a convenient excuse rather than actual reason.
I've nothing against charities and donate to several myself so you can get off your high-horse now. I simply accept the reality that a large proportion of my donation is wasted.
(linked from http://www.redcross.org/about-us/who-we-are/governance )
Sorry to pick on one point but isn't that throwing the baby out with the bath water?
Let's Encrypt, Liberty, Khan Academy, Wikipedia, Seed Bank are a few of the charities I regularly donate to. I can understand not volunteering for humanitarian relief which is supposed to end up halfway across the world in some poorly governed LEDC but there are a lot of worthy causes which are well run.
If that worry you so much, there are more direct and accountable charities available. I would recommend Watsi(1)
(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watsi (I'm not affiliate with them except as a donor.)
But I still think Lords of Poverty is a legitimate book and he had a lot of on the ground experience in Africa to observe how foreign aid is distributed and wasted. So I don't like dismissing his earlier work even if you find his later, let's say fictional work, dubious.
I especially liked his work on Sphinx erosion patterns in Egypt together with Dr Robert M Schoch from Boston University (and I am not saying we should overthrow the ancient Egyptian history based one factor like erosion pattern but it is intriguing).
Another interesting thing is the newly discovered 11,500 years old Gobekli Tepe, which is really interesting. I enjoy reading stuff like this in my leisure time or during long flights. Doesn't mean I trust it completely of course ;)
I have friends who quit their jobs and went to third world countries and worked for charities on the ground for 6 months or so. This seems way better than giving money to some organization which claims it will spend it to help those people.
Not sure if Occam's razor applies here but given how much money is being funneled to charities and foreign aid and how little has been actually achieved it seems likely to me that the money is being wasted, probably ending up in hands of corrupt local officials and strongmen most likely.
I had the same concerns, but these guys are legit and get it done for the people who need it.
According to the charter the purposes of the corporation are:
(1) to provide volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded of the armed forces, in accordance with the spirit and conditions of:
(A) the conference of Geneva of October, 1863;
(B) the treaties of the Red Cross, or the treaties of Geneva, of August 22, 1864, July 27, 1929, and August 12, 1949, to which the United States of America has given its adhesion; and
(C) any other treaty, convention, or protocol similar in purpose to which the United States of America has given or may give its adhesion;
(2) in carrying out the purposes described in clause (1) of this section, to perform all the duties devolved on a national society by each nation that has acceded to any of those treaties, conventions, or protocols;
(3) to act in matters of voluntary relief and in accordance with the military authorities as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and the armed forces of the United States and to act in those matters between similar national societies of governments of other countries through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Government, the people, and the armed forces of the United States
The problem is that sure we can donate to other organizations but the Red Cross still is in a way a representive of America. And if they are so bad at delivering aid to Haiti; I wonder how effective they are at their other duties. I wonder if congress can revoke their charter? Or force reform? But that seems like an almost impossible task.
They're also very litigious. Of course they need to protect their brand, but in a lot of cases they are pretty objectively the bad guys. They have taken legal action against other orgs/charities using "for the cure" in their names, they've taken action against orgs/charities using "cure" and pink together.
In general I think they are more focused on self-perpetuation than curing cancer. There's a lot of reading material on how some of their corporate partnerships have been deceptive in the sense that Susan G Komen received very little directly financially, and took the opportunity as a chance to market themselves instead.
Their CEO and upper management do make a lot of money, but I don't think it's out of line for an organization their size. It's still a matter of controversy though.
For the curious, Karen Handel (now R-GA6) is believed to have been the driving force behind that.
There's a documentary about it called Pink Ribbons, Inc.
I also heard someone once criticize them for supporting anti-choice politicians but I don't know how true that is.
They got involved in a political fight involving Planned Parenthood:
Every project had a person responsible for it, written out goals and risks, at least quarterly progress updates, and funding organizations checking up on the projects at regular basis. Even when partnering with local organizations to get work done, the NGO had permanent people in the country keeping an eye on things.
There are definitely organizations that do a good job of handling this stuff.
Even a bit of progress or positive change is priceless.
If it's meant to be a meaningful concern, expressing it in a more intelligent manner would gain it upvotes. The way you express your opinion matters.
I'd like a similar scheme as food labelling colour codes. So key facts such as % to cause, % to management team, top salary K. This would greatly aid in transparency, rather than trying to read their financial's which are often little more than a glossy brochure. Plus, more auditing on the bigger ones to investigate large inefficiencies/ backhanders wouldn't be a bad idea.
*That's not including their expenses, which I bet are astronomical.
PS: I get that some charities have higher operating costs (e.g. medical research). Especially when I myself suffer from quite a rare condition called CRPS (unfortunately one of the most painful conditions known..), yet I struggle to recommend a charity that is making a difference. I'd love something to go viral like the ice-bucket challenge, but I don't see a way that wouldn't result in serious injuries.
Edit: I was merely making the point that if charities were more transparent. More people would donate (whilst possibly becoming more efficient in the process).
As for regards to mentioning the illness. To have something that makes a major impact on one's life, yet not be passionate about related charities, illustrates that there is a problem with many of today's charities.
As the poorest nation, per capita, in western hemisphere, Haiti is often the "face of poverty", with photographs of its most unfortunates featured on fund-raising newsletters of every sort but with the failures of efforts at reform being featured on every debunking of
I have a personal friend, white, who served as something of a liaison, moving goods, between the random (white) Americans who showed up on Haiti after the earth quake and the people (black, Haitian) who needed assistance. She helped some substantial number of people but naturally only a drop in the bucket.
Haiti has a complex structure of repression which has held power for quite some time. The multitude of corrupt processes in the nation naturally don't help either. But as is visible, charities are remarkably unconcerned with these subtleties, being bureaucracies like all bureaucracies, they plow ahead with pouring X dollars into Y problem with consultations with Z experts.
Literally, you can find groups of people in America, Houston in particular, doing 100x as the Red Cross with considerably less - because they are people actually walking into the situation and trying to figure out what's needed.
Bureaucracy once has its strength relative to such efforts but this strength seems entirely lost now. I'd chalk it down to the general decay of this society.
What I know of Haiti comes from above, meeting just a few Haitians and the following texts:
I'm in West Africa now. Same story here. Same in the East too.
I have met hundreds of UN and NGO workers making $1000/day, doing absolutely and completely nothing. Mostly they are proud of it.
Many, many NGOs spend millions to build for example one shed or deliver one truck, which is abandoned less than 2 months later for lack of maintenance.
In the same way healthcare is for profit in the US, many "donations" are for profit.
This is just one of the numerous media stories on how donation money always ends up paying multi-million salaries for top execs.
Sadly, charlatans are everywhere. The Red Cross is just a another brand used to con gullible and well intended people.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent in the rest of the world is a very important humanitarian response organisation.
There are organisations that evaluate charities, and they show that you can easily save lives by donating:
Federal Funding of Pediatric Cancer Research funds. People age 0-18 get 4% of the funding and do not benefit from research for adults since 0-18 your normal good cells are also dividing and growing. Research for Pediatric Cancer benefits EVERYONE since they tend to be less side effects and effective for all. Children went over 20 years before their with only two new Chemotherapy drugs for them while they were advertised by different organizations to get funding. St Baldrick's funded research came out with a one that ends up being VERY effective.
We as a family support St Baldricks 100%
It's a project to evaluate and rank NGOs based on how effective they really are. They have managed funds based on topics of interest as well.
Also, I liked this: "I'm not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. It doesn't add up for me."
I'm no expert on the Red Cross, but it's entirely possible that most Red Cross organizations do excellent work, while the American Red Cross is a corrupt or incompetent mess. Or has recently become such a mess.
But I also get the impression that Haiti is a particularly hard country to help.
MSF/Doctors without Borders -> https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summar...
Save the Children -> https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summar...
Oxfam -> https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summar...
Notably, despite its prominence, Red Cross scores only a "B+" rating on CharityWatch.
Still, Doctors without Borders USA gets an A.
Most big charities I know in the EU have good records... Particularly the state-sponsored ones.
- to be fair I could be uninformed :)
> The American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross are independent organizations, with very different reputations.
Hence, there's more charities, more attention given to them, etc.
If you want an aggregator charity there are plenty of other options out there.
I won't claim to know much about the situation, but major news organizations have reported on what appears to be similar mismanagement of the ~13 billion in funds donated to Haiti . And Bill Clinton found himself co-chairing the commission that handled these funds.
The conspiracy theories around the Clintons and Haiti are persistent from a number of angles. Emails from the Podesta leak added fuel to the fire, among them this one featuring a close Clinton associate mentioning "Tony Rodham ... hustling gold mining deals in Haiti."
Anything involving the Clintons merits extra scrutiny, IMO.
Corruption, ineptitude or both? It's the American way!
In theory, passionate empathic people should be able to outperform government projects 100:1 and no doubt many do to some extend, even without any formal organization.
If you live next door the just being there for people is priceless. Its not like government will see you rebuilding your house and bring you a hot cup of tea when you look worn out while for a private citizen that would be a minimum effort.
The obvious question is why haven't US law makers moved in for the kill with so many for-profit-non-profits? I think the answer is probably as obvious as the question.