Should You Donate to the Red Cross?

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Should you heed the calls to donate to the Red Cross to help Japan? Maybe not. Here’s an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed from January of this year:

When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, the world community came to its aid. Millions of private citizens in this country and around the world reached into their household budgets and gave generously to the Haitian people who were grappling with the devastation…

Despite billions of dollars pledged from private citizens and world governments, a serious health scare has arisen. With poor sanitation, malnutrition, little safe drinking water and no sewage systems, the crowded temporary housing tent communities provide ideal breeding grounds for cholera.

One independent report has conservatively estimated that there is one toilet for every 273 people in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Throughout Haiti, a year after we opened our hearts and wallets, the latrines are not cleaned on a regular basis and human waste spreads into the streams by the frequent rains. Now, a year later, limited water distribution continues, with little development of sustainable, municipal water-filtration systems.

In the face of these conditions, Haiti remains the non-governmental organization (NGO) capital of the world. Before the earthquake, there were more than 5,000 organizations on the ground in Haiti. From the International Red Cross to any number of church and civic organizations, Haiti is replete with people of good will who are there to make it a better place to live. Each of these organizations conducted their own fundraising campaigns after the earthquake and collected millions of dollars.

With millions of dollars at our disposal do we really lack the ability to support basic sanitation and clean water? Do we lack the ability to stop a preventable, deadly water-borne disease right off our coast? What happened to the money?

Many of the charities on the ground have reported they are setting aside a portion of their donations (sometimes up to 70 percent) for the “reconstruction” period. It’s clear from the outpouring of support many of those who donated from their own scarce family budgets believed they were giving to save lives immediately. In the face of a preventable public health emergency, like cholera, many will be surprised that more than half of their donations continue to sit in U.S. banks.

My organization has attempted for nearly a year to get the Red Cross to account for the money they collected for Haiti. In a recent meeting, I was told that 70 percent of their donations remain in “reserve” for longer-term reconstruction.

So here’s my question for any readers out there who know more about these things than I do (which isn’t much). Who deserves our donations? I’ve heard that Doctors Without Borders is on the ground early after disasters, has low overhead, and delivers immediate relief.

I’m also open to the possibility that the op-ed above is wrong, or that there are credible responses to or justifications of the points it raises. But I’d like to see those responses. It’s hard to fathom why the Red Cross would have 70 percent of Haiti donations still sitting in the bank a year later, while the country battles preventable disease outbreaks caused by poor sanitation.

MORE: A commenter points to this Felix Salmon post on Haiti last year, which also touts Doctors Without Borders (also known as MSF)—although I would guess that Salmon’s criticisms NGO efforts in Haiti may not apply to Japan. Another commenter recommends this episode of This American Life.

MORE: See also this Scott Greenfield post.

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57 Responses to “Should You Donate to the Red Cross?”

  1. #1 |  BenS | 

    I pretty much always stick with Doctors Without Borders. They seem the most honest and most committed to raising funds responsibly — after the Haiti Earthquake, they actually asked people to stop giving money earmarked for Haiti. Once they’d raised what they could foresee spending in Haiti, they actually turned away money (or asked that it be directed to other countries). (See http://www.givewell.org/international/disaster-relief/Doctors-Without-Borders#footnote19_h22dyuz)

  2. #2 |  Nathania Johnson | 

    I found a Reuters blog post from January 2010 stating that the Red Cross still hasn’t spent all the money donated to the 2004 tsunami in indonesia/south asia.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/01/15/dont-give-money-to-haiti/

    The post ended up quoting a doctors without borders rep from the USA saying that it’s best to donate funds without specifying where they go.

    I’m inferring that to mean if a particular organization raises enough money for their relief efforts in a specific disaster, they can use undesignated funds for other dire situations going on in the world every day – that you may not hear about.

  3. #3 |  Davis | 

    Many, many of the NGOs operating in Haiti do not deserve your money. My dad has worked down there for roughly nine years in the NGO community (and with the USG, which is a whole ‘nother mess), and the stories I hear from him have led me to withhold donations from nearly every international aid organization.

    That being said, even in the depths of his cynicism my father has never had anything but positive words for Doctors Without Borders.

  4. #4 |  Mister DNA | 

    I was in the big quake of ’89 in San Francisco and there was a big controversy with the Red Cross back then.

    A spokesperson from the Red Cross was being interviewed by a local radio station and she was asked, “Besides the Red Cross, what other relief organizations need donations, volunteers, etc. ?” Her response was an adamant “None.” The interviewer was skeptical and pressed for details, but the spokesperson dug her heels in, insisting that the Red Cross was the ONLY agency worth helping. Not only that, she had the audacity to claim that they were the only agency out there offering relief.

    Of course, I wouldn’t expect a spokesperson for the Red Cross to get on the air and shill for other relief agencies, but she could have handled the question much more diplomatically… and honestly.

    On a domestic level, I can’t speak highly enough of the Salvation Army (and this is coming from an atheist). They’re helping people every day of the year, and when disaster strikes, they’re often the first ones getting their hands dirty helping others. I’m sure the level of relief the can offer varies from region to region, but in most areas, the Salvation Army is usually on the ball.

    On a personal level, I would never donate to the Red Cross or the United Way.

  5. #5 |  Z | 

    NGOs are a big business. As with any business, once they solve the problem they were created to solve they go without cash, so it’s in their interest to perpetuate it. Never give money to some feel good organization that declines to get specific. Doctors without Borders is good. http://www.worldvision.com.au/Home.aspx also has a good rep.

  6. #6 |  Greg | 

    In the best of times, Haiti is a Third World environment.

    Infrastructure is a joke for all but the wealthy, and what few government services can be offered are filtered through layers of corruption.

    A good section of the government bureaucracy died in the quake.

    Given the theatre of operations, I’m amazed that anything has gotten done – especially with ungodly numbers of (mostly small) NGOs running around. Too many cooks, too many recipes.

    Toss in a bunch indirect of cash, and two things are certain to get done – some will get rich, and the rich will get richer.

    Much of what is slowing Haiti’s rebuilding comes from the nature of the aid itself. Instead of giving vouchers and/or cash directly to the people, we send a bunch of physical food. This kills small businesses and the supply chains that sell to them. These unintended consequences snowball through the whole economy.

    Oh yeah, I too like MSF.

  7. #7 |  freebob | 

    I can’t add much, but there was a This American Life episode, from a few months ago, that focused on NGOs in Haiti (and their complete inability to get any positive results).
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/408/island-time
    I never read anything but good things about Doctors Without Borders.

  8. #8 |  Episiarch | 

    As with any business, once they solve the problem they were created to solve they go without cash, so it’s in their interest to perpetuate it. Never give money to some feel good organization that declines to get specific.

    Not just that; it’s the salaries paid to the executives that are also ridiculous. I believe the CEO of the United Way, for instance, gets a million dollars a year. It’s very hard to donate money to charities, because like any other place where money or power is concentrated, the worst type of people will be attracted to it and will start taking over, and will pervert it from its original intention and goals.

  9. #9 |  Drunkenatheist | 

    Oh dude, like a lot of people above have mentioned, the Red Cross has a really shitty reputation (in terms of mismanagement, etc.) for actually helping people. On a side note, let’s also not forget that the branch that does blood drives (IIRC, The American Red Cross) does not accept blood from gay men. They run you through a “risky behavior” screener and will not allow men to donate if they have engaged in sodomy. (Before anyone opens their mouth, yes, I’m well aware that straight men love buttsex as well, but sodomy is not a primary sexual act for most straight couples. It disproportionately impacts gay men.)

    Now, for full disclosure, I have never given blood (tattoos and past health issues). I could be wrong and they may ask women about sodomy as well. But even if they’re turning away women for sodomy, it doesn’t change the fact that they claim to be all about “helping people” but will turn away blood that could help save people’s lives. Blood banks have been screening blood for what, 25 years now? If it’s already got to be screened, then I don’t really see what their problem is with accepting it. /end rant

  10. #10 |  Mister DNA | 

    Not just that; it’s the salaries paid to the executives that are also ridiculous. I believe the CEO of the United Way, for instance, gets a million dollars a year.

    There has been at least one scandal involving the United Way giving interest-free six-figure loans to their executives.

    The main reason I’ll never give to the United Way, though, is this:

    Depending where you’re at, your donation might be divided among organizations that cancel out one another. For example, some of your money might go to Planned Parenthood, while some might go to a Pro-Life group. Locally, our United Way dealt with that problem – under pressure from the local Catholic Diocese – by booting any group that offered birth control or abortion services.

  11. #11 |  BamBam | 

    Not to mention the UN introducing cholera to Haiti via their incompetence.

  12. #12 |  mb | 

    red cross had problems during katrina, as well. iirc, there were similar concerns then about them hoarding donations for future needs while current needs went unmet.

  13. #13 |  C.E. | 

    I switched giving from Doctors without Borders to Red Cross mainly because my mailbox was inundated with junk mail from DWB. I was stunned at just how much crap they sent me asking for more money. But I was under the impression that Red Cross would use my money directly for relief efforts. I might go back to DWB and just endure the onslaught to my mail box.

  14. #14 |  auggie | 

    After the cat 4 hurricane Ivan in Pensacola the red cross was the only people I saw helping. The salvation army had a facility nearby that remained closed a year after. Our local grocers, Food World, literally fed our neiborhood themselves staying open with no power handing out food water and ice regularly. Without them things would have been much worse The neighborhoods with winn dixie and walmart weren’t so lucky.

  15. #15 |  Jamie | 

    I will recommend Doctors without Borders. They do good work.

    Somewhat more controversially, I also recommend Burners without Borders. It is Burning Man related, and it is not a traditional charity. They can’t, and do not, respond to everything. They aren’t really an organization, in the way other charities are. But when ‘they’ can respond, they do. I don’t think anyone is on the ground in Japan, though. ( I could be wrong- I know some of these folks, and think I would have heard, but…)

    Global Voices is good, too. It is not a first responder org, though.

  16. #16 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    C.E., you can also ask them to stop sending you solicitations, or send them just once a year, etc. I work in the nonprofit fundraising field, and I’ve never heard of a reputable organization that doesn’t honor such requests –– the don’t want to piss you to the point where you stop giving.

    You can also ask them not to trade/sell your name to other nonprofits, which is what causes that flood of junk mail from other groups. And best of all, you can contact the Direct Marketing Association at http://www.dmachoice.org to request that their members not contact you, which should cut down your unsolicited mail by about 80%.

  17. #17 |  Righhhhhttt... | 

    I donate blood fairly regularly to Red Cross, so I figure my donations really are getting used – at least, I hope they aren’t just pouring it down the drain or something.

    @Drunkenatheist: That said, I tend to agree with you. They are way too cautious, even when the evidence really doesn’t support the policy. Case in point: http://www.slate.com/id/2257655/ What I really don’t understand is why risk groups can’t give for other risk groups? For example, when I deployed overseas, I couldn’t give while over there, and for a year after coming back. Potentially 12 pints wasted. Why couldn’t my blood be tagged for people in those areas? From what I know about supply chain management (granted not a huge amount) it might drive costs up a little, but in return you get (tens of?) millions of potential donors in the pool.

  18. #18 |  perlhaqr | 

    Righhhhhhhttt…: Can you even imagine the screeching that would occur if the Red Cross segregated “Gay Blood” for use in Gay Patients?

  19. #19 |  OBTC | 

    #12 | mb
    “red cross had problems during katrina, as well. iirc, there were similar concerns then about them hoarding donations for future needs while current needs went unmet.”

    You’re absolutely correct and they received a huge public shaming for it. The people donating to Katrina wanted all of it to go to Katrina (how dare they!)
    It certainly was an eye opener as to how the Red Cross conducts itself.

  20. #20 |  EH | 

    Somewhat more controversially, I also recommend Burners without Borders. It is Burning Man related, and it is not a traditional charity. They can’t, and do not, respond to everything. They aren’t really an organization, in the way other charities are. But when ‘they’ can respond, they do. I don’t think anyone is on the ground in Japan, though. ( I could be wrong- I know some of these folks, and think I would have heard, but…)

    So, like, there are these guys, who can do some stuff…sometimes, if they can manage to get over there, but not Japan, so support them…why? Because they have a first aid kit, are your friends, and know how to glue carpet onto cars?

    Don’t flatter yourself, you’re not “controversial.” Just tone-deaf and opportunistic. Hey, you know what? When *I* can respond, I do. In fact, I think *most* people will respond if they can. The ones who don’t, can’t. It’s axiomatic.

  21. #21 |  Bart | 

    My money goes to PATH (path.org). As much money as possible goes straight to the people in need when they first need it.

  22. #22 |  Bart | 

    BTW, I spent a year working in Eritrea and became good friends with the heads of the Red Cross in that country while I was there.

    They all told me flat out to never ever give my money to the Red Cross. They know just how much is wasted.

  23. #23 |  croaker | 

    Red Cross gets not a dime, not a drop of blood from me. If you needed to write a book on mismanagement, you could get all your material from the American Red Cross.

    Salvation Army and DWB, definitely. If you feel the need to donate blood, I suggest the blood bank of your local hospital. You would not believe the profit the Red Cross makes on your donated blood (that you can’t even get a tax deduction for, according to the IRS). At least you can get paid for donating plasma.

  24. #24 |  MattJ | 

    Here’s a post from the blog Good Intentions are not Enough. I’ve read a bunch of the blog, and the proprietress comes off as kind of a curmudgeon, but the charity business seems like it would be frustrating for anyone expecting good behavior by both donors and charities.

    http://goodintents.org/disaster/the-dos-and-donts-of-disaster-donations

    I think her blog is well-worth reading for things like this. That said, it seems to me that if you read around her blog and follow all of her advice for picking a good charity, you’ll spend days researching.

  25. #25 |  demize! | 

    I guess Wyclef Jean is out of the question. But I second on The Salvation Army. When the Con Ed plant I live next to had one of its more serious periodic steam catastrophes they where quick on the scene with blankets and hot coffee.

  26. #26 |  JasonN | 

    The important thing is that as a good steward of your blessings, you find someone on the ground that is doing good work and give them money now.

    I am looking for conservative churches of Christ, because as a rule they are about as frugal and practical a people as you’ll ever find. Those that are sincere honestly believe they are judged by how well and honestly the manage money given in the name of faith and charity. If you give a true believer a thousand dollars and tell them you want people helped on the ground, you can bet that at least that amount will find its way to practical helpful use.

    Determining that a church is true or conservative or faithful is a completely different matter. The point is, find something you feel confident will help, give and then monitor the outcome. We’re sending some care packages (largely discouraged by the way) to some friends with vitamins and iodine (to help avoid long-term effects of radiation exposure). Food distribution chains are disrupted, people are freezing and the power is out due to the nuclear emergencies.

    I wouldn’t typically trust most government response teams to put out a brush fire. Think of the list of monumental do nothing failures in recent history: Catrina, Haiti, Gulf Oil Spill. Private powers are almost always more efficient and effective, but especially so when they are held accountable.

  27. #27 |  Johnny | 

    To their credit, Doctors Without Borders has stopped accepting money for the tsunami in Japan:

    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0104-10.htm

    You’ve got to respect a charity that will let you know when they’ve got enough.

    Regarding C.E’s objection: They’re legitimate. Inasmuch as I’m planning on making a donation somewhere this year and would prefer to not be bombarded with reading material, is there anything that would prevent me from just sending a money order?

  28. #28 |  Midori | 

    Just as a head’s up, that link posted in #26 is for the 2005 tsunami. I haven’t seen anything yet about Doctors Without Borders not accepting funds for the current catastrophe in Japan.

  29. #29 |  emily | 

    I would like to point out that the rate at which an NGO spends your money, also known as the “burn rate”, is NOT indicative of how good their work is. Much money is used for longer-term reconstruction, and so spending it all within the first year is a bad idea. Further, often funds are earmarked (as someone said, “they wanted all of their money to go to Katrina) so NGOs have no choice of where to spend the money, often leaving money wasted. That the Red Cross still hasn’t spend all of their money really says nothing of the quality of their work. (More on the burn rate here: http://goodintents.org/evaluations-and-feedback/cholera) That said, non-profits in Haiti have seen many failures in the past year, and it is understandable that donors are frustrated.

    Other bad indicators of good NGO work is overhead costs and CEO salary. Overhead and salaries say NOTHING about the quality of the work being done. If you want quality, you’re going to have to do a little research. Look at the organization you are considering donating to. If they do not public the results of their work, don’t send money. Results are not “We built 20 new schools” or “We set up toilets.” Results are “We improved child literacy X%” or “We got enrollment rates up X%” or “We reduced water/sanitation related illness by X%.”

    NGO work should always be results based, because results are what matter ON THE GROUND. Results should be measurable, they should be tangible.

    As a previous commenter said, it takes time to figure out a good charity to donate to. You have to do a little research. That said, its charity – this isn’t just about making you feel good, so don’t complain if its not easy. As a donor, YOU have a responsibility to make sure you donate to the right organizations.

  30. #30 |  Saundra | 

    Here is my advice for choosing a charity to donate to after a disaster. It addresses many of the points brought up in this discussion, including the Burn Rate, administration costs, and speed.

    http://goodintents.org/disaster/the-dos-and-donts-of-disaster-donations

  31. #31 |  Saundra | 

    Ah, I see someone else already posted a link to my blog in #24. Funny, I don’t think of myself as a curmudgeon, but I can see how I might come across that way.

    Giving well does take time, thought, and research. I wish it were easier, but it’s not. The best, and perhaps the only way, to improve aid is to improve donors. Make sure that the pressure you put on organizations and the projects you fund are really leading to better, not worse aid.

    I’m surprised no one is talking about donating to Japanese aid organizations, such as the Japanese Red Cross. It’s a different entity than the American Red Cross as each country is a completely separate organization. Whenever possible, it’s always good to consider donating to local organizations to support local capacity and local ownership.

  32. #32 |  Pete | 

    Everything I have seen about Doctors Without Borders has suggested to me that they set or are at the bar that all other charities should reach for.

  33. #33 |  Theo | 

    I live in a city with no scalable disaster response, so when my apartment complex burned down last year, the city handed its meager relief efforts over to the Red Cross.

    This was goddamn awful. They used our fire to fundraise, without being open about it, and anyone who discovered the truth got the “fire the next disaster” line sold to them so smoothly that even victims believed. We had to help and organize ourselves, because the Red Cross actuallygot in the way.

    I will never give them a dime.

  34. #34 |  DevEconHealth | 

    I think this is missing a major point. You are comparing the operation of organizations in two, vastly different situations. Haiti was/is an impoverished country with limited infrastructure, almost no planned emergency response, and very much short of funds. Japan is an incredibly developed country with a well trained, highly coordinated emergency response structure incorporating emergency teams from its Aid sector (JICA, et. al), domestic private health sector (JP Red Cross, St. Luck Int. Hostpital, et. al) and government. Moreover the population, government, and teams have practiced for this scenario constantly for the last century or more (I am arguing from the early drills during Meiji) and its second largest world economy with high per capita income. Truthfully, giving to organizations that are very successful in the developing world would pretty much be useless for Japan and you should give to orgs like JP Red Cross that are already integrated into the response system.

    Here is why:

    1. Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, etc., while they might have offices for donations and volunteer recruiting in Japan, have no real resources, personnel or networks for disaster response in Japan; all of those are in the developing world.

    2. These organizations are not part of the planned, organized, very well running at the moment, emergency response system of Japan and would only be recreating the wheel if they tried to step in now.

    3. Japan already has a disaster response/emergency response system that integrates local government, emergency teams including JICA teams (http://bit.ly/h0HZ81), JP Red Cross Teams (http://www.jrc.or.jp/english/activity/disaster.html), and the SDF with US Military support. This is a fine tuned, honed, practiced system that has experience in numerous domestic disasters from the Kobe quake to the Niigata Quake a few years back. They would not try to integrate a new organizations that comes in like Doctors Without Borders in the middle of a crisis.

    4. Long term recovery for Japan will be done with the institutions and organizations that are Japanese and are part of Japanese society like the Japanese Red Cross, which has hospitals across Japan.

    5. If you want to make a donation, donating into the existing structure, which is already a very effective system, will be the only way to really help. Japan does not have a resource and organizational gap like Haiti, nor should we naively pretend that it will suddenly have one due to this disaster. They will not be letting outside NGOs rush in like the cavalry to implement development on their own, nor would the Japanese people want such. The population as a whole, and this is from being educated and living most of my adult life in the country, trust their government for providing these services and not any outside, especially non-Japanese, NGOs that are not part of that social system.

    That basically is the sum of it. At this time let me just say that I was educated in Health and Development in Japan, and have worked within their domestic health response system as well as their international health and development aid system, and it is one of, if not the, best in the world (I am not Japanese by the way so not complete bias there). If you really wish to be a part of the solution, you will work with this aspect of the Japanese nation and society and not try to find alternatives because some other organization worked so well in a completely unrelated context.

    Basically, Japan will get through this on its own for the most part. You can be a part of it, but the only way to do that is on their terms.

    I don’t want to discourage donations, but make them count for the people, not ideologies at this time.

    Cheers and yoroshiku,

    DevEconHealth

  35. #35 |  D | 

    Radley, I would strongly recommend this blog, by William Easterly from NYU.

    http://aidwatchers.com/

    His blog comments frequently on donations to NGOs, and what helps vs. what hurts.

    He is a well known expert in foreign aid and development, and is particularly well known for his criticism of large-scale government solutions to development problems (and for his criticism of the World Bank). I believe that the two of you are of a similar political persuasion.

  36. #36 |  gonzostl | 

    I live in St. Louis and after the flood of 1993 the Salvation Army was great. While the Red Cross would show up with sandwiches, the Salvation Army would show up with a new stove or fridge. While we where out sandbagging the Red Cross would show up asking for donations, and the Salvation Army would show up with more bags and volunteers. I have not been a fan of the Red Cross ever since.

  37. #37 |  Kristen | 

    Much of what is slowing Haiti’s rebuilding comes from the nature of the aid itself. Instead of giving vouchers and/or cash directly to the people, we send a bunch of physical food.

    This is the whole “give a man a fish/teacha man to fish” proverb come to life. It’s sad that the Haitians have to be saddled with these self-serving, self-aggrandizing assholes.

    And when there’s a disaster I, too, generally give to MSF. From what I know they’re on the ground almost as quickly as search and rescue teams and they provide actual medical care from real MD’s.

  38. #38 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Management of NGOs can very much be a “can’t win” scenario. For example: gonzostl sandbagging in St. Louis…WHAT?! You people in St. Louis just made the flooding worse down the road in Oakville! We in Oakville hate the Salvation Army!

    With that in mind, a couple issues I’d like to note:
    1. Red Cross treats blood like Goodwill treats clothes donations (or at least they did a decade ago). They do make a profit–which is used to fund their operations. This is the same way that Goodwill operates–getting people to buy donated items. If you disagree with that, so be it. But it is not a form of corruption. It is the way they raise funds.

    2. NGO CEO salaries: Complex organizations must be run effectively and that means paying for great talent. A legit stance is that NGO CEOs should have already made their billions rather than making their fortunes at NGOs. But IMHO some of the blanket criticisms of CEO salaries fall short of admitting that there’s some serious talent needed at that position. Ultimately, the BoD is responsible for optimizing use of funds. Most do a pretty good job and need to be monitored…all money/power can corrupt. But these executive positions are not staffed by volunteers.

    3. Specifying use of funds: Some NGOs are either specific to an area or disaster; or will allow donations to specify an area. Others (such as the Red Cross) believe the best solution is for them to determine how to best apply the funds across their operations. This policy comes from past disasters being overfunded and others having nothing. Other complications arise which I trust don’t have to go into detail. This is not/was not a form of corruption by the Red Cross, but it was highlighted by media theater for the usual effect. Instead, it was a decision made long ago by Red Cross. If it was a mistake that they didn’t loudly proclaim this policy, it is open for debate. That policy wasn’t news to me or anyone I know who has experience with NGOs.

    4. Haiti: What a disaster. Many NGOs believe money spent in Haiti is just throwing money down a hole due to lack of basic infrastructure to support the population density and be disease-free. There is pressure by NGOs and GOs to get basic infrastructure in place prior to throwing more money at the other problems. Again not a form of corruption, but a strategy for how to best use funds. Criticize, but understand the reasoning.

    5. Fundraising: Yes, they are voracious fund raisers. I think their inability to track requests relating to how you’d like to be contacted (if at all) is particularly frustrating and inexcusable.

    My Recommendations: whatever you feel good about (…mumble mumble Ayn Rand).

    Finally, since this is The Agitator, why the fuck hasn’t anyone proudly stated that the best way to help after a disaster is just to write a fat check to the US Government?

  39. #39 |  Elizabeth Anne | 

    UMCOR. I’ve been banging that drum all weekend. Yes, they are church affiliated, but they are a relief organization, not a mission group, and 100 percent of donations go to actual relief work.

  40. #40 |  Greg | 

    You people in St. Louis just made the flooding worse down the road in Oakville! We in Oakville hate the Salvation Army!

    Where are you in Oakville that’s close enough to a river to get flooded? Other than the lowlands near end of Telegraph down by where the go-kart track used to be (Meramec), I never saw it get even close to anyone’s house even in ’93.

    Pretty much everything off Christopher is bluff (Mississippi), Baumgartner b(Meramec) seldom sees anything more than a big puddle, and the Arnold (not Oakville) side of the Meramec bought out the river rats of Hollywood Beach 20 years ago. That floods all the time, but it’s empty land.

    FWIW, I’m kinda guessing gonzo was sandbagging on or near River Despair. Which would have about zero effect on downstream heights of the Mississippi.

    I do understand your meta-point, and tend to agree. Fact is MSF/DWB are great at what they do, which is very focused and honestly, small potatoes.

    Most of their doctors take some time off from their well-paid jobs and slum it at $350 a week for a bit. Not a lot of long-term talent available at that pricepoint. Dishwashers get paid better.

    I respect the work MSF/DWB does. I am well aware that Red Cross is quite inefficient in many ways. BUT, in a real disaster MSF/DWB is a cog in the machine – they simply don’t have resources, infrastructure, hard assets, or staff continuity that a big org does.

    Their are very cogent arguments that can be made that if we could only scale the MSF/DWB model, we could use it to replace RC. Sadly, MSF can’t staff it’s needs now – there’s simply no way to get functional personnel without a consistent decent paycheck, and that requires overhead.

  41. #41 |  XI | 

    @Z #5
    NGOs are a big business. As with any business, once they solve the problem they were created to solve they go without cash, so it’s in their interest to perpetuate it.
    Come on. And we could have cured all disease by now if it weren’t for Big Pharma wanting to sell us treatments. If we outlaw NGO charities, human suffering will end? Maybe the Red Cross is terribly inefficient, maybe they are really terrible at what they do, but your pet theory is just childish. Hanlon’s razor applies….

    @Boyd Durkin
    That is a pretty spot on assessment. Just where to those bastards at Goodwill get the nerve to sell stuff? ;)

  42. #42 |  supercat | 

    #9 | Drunkenatheist | //On a side note, let’s also not forget that the branch that does blood drives (IIRC, The American Red Cross) does not accept blood from gay men.//

    Has a 100%-reliable test yet been developed that will identify the blood from HIV-contagious individuals that have not developed antibodies?

  43. #43 |  Righhhhhttt... | 

    @perlhaqr I really don’t think they should be segregating at all, but if they have to, they might as well do so in in way that maximizes the number of people helped.

  44. #44 |  rsm | 

    For Americans I’ll simply suggest the JP Red Cross and supporting your own troops as the 7th fleet is providing massive support to the rescue efforts.

    There are a couple of other organizations that have immediate relief going in (ex. greenbox), but basically for immediate disaster relief it’s the SDF, US Navy and local disaster response combined with some international support (64 non-jp teams last I looked at the numbers). The international search and rescue teams can probably be supported locally. I’m not sure I trust anyone else.

    Also, supporting the Japanese mob seems to be a good way to provide charity. I’m not sure they take donations though.

  45. #45 |  Grant | 

    The Red Cross is worse than useless. During WWII my dad told me that they sold cigs to soldiers that had been donated to them by the companies. After 9-11 they were on the air requesting donations of blood, 6 months later it was reported that they were dumping the surplus.
    I donate to a local blood bank, and they related that the Red Cross had created problems for their efforts by their irresponsible actions.

  46. #46 |  HELP JAPAN: Doctors Without Borders a better choice than Red Cross · Hammer of Truth | 

    […] HELP JAPAN: Doctors Without Borders a better choice than Red Cross… PrintEmailShare This entry was posted in link. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  47. #47 |  Nunya | 

    According to the NCCS, the American National Red Cross has over $3.5 BILLION in assets…and they have other branches. They do not need your money. I don’t give anything to anyone unless I can look them in the eye and know that what I give goes directly to help them – NOT to corporate CEOs or advertising. Unfortunately, the Red Cross is not the only organization that preys on the good hearts of others. Check out the American Cancer Society – if you think they ever want to find a cure for cancer, you need to have your head examined.

  48. #48 |  Don Duncan | 

    I would only give to Doctors Without Borders and A.I. I was playing poker with a Red Cross translator who bragged about how much money he made and the big bonus he was going to get when sent to an African country with civil unrest. I recognized the country and mentioned it had just yesterday kicked out all journalists. I suggested he make arrangements to report to a news agency secretly so the world could keep track of another dictator. He replied: “That’s the stupidest idea I have ever heard. Why should I risk my job?” I replied: “Sorry, I assumed people who worked for the Red Cross were humanitarians. My mistake.”

  49. #49 |  Should You Donate to the Red Cross? « Truth2Freedom's Blog | 

    […] http://www.theagitator.com/2011/03/13/should-you-donate-to-the-red-cross/ […]

  50. #50 |  chuck | 

    Shelterbox is a really cool organization. There MO is to get into a country immediately and give people a box full of supplies required to survive for (i cant remember the # of days… but a good amount)

    I think they’re goal is 90% of all funds to go to getting people survival gear. Pretty neat history – http://www.shelterbox.org

    I not part of them but have a friend who helps them.

  51. #51 |  Small is Tremendous | Imagine Today | 

    […] giving the money to an organization that actually uses all of the money you donated to help Japan. (As opposed to organizations like the Red Cross that have not been totally accountable with donations….)  Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of charities to start from to help Japan… although […]

  52. #52 |  Quasar | 

    @Don Duncan: Humanitarian workers are not journalists, for good reason. Neutrality and confidentiality are central tenets of humanitarian work, and neutrality in armed conflicts has been one of the core principles of the Red Cross since its founding in 1863. If relief workers routinely, or even occasionally, relayed information to the media or foreign governments, supported a political agenda, or took sides in a conflict, relief organizations simply would not be allowed into most war zones and trouble spots. The goal is to bring food, medicine and other relief to the vulnerable, including in oppressive countries, in the middle of wars, in prisons (even Guantanamo), etc. It is not to help the “good guys”. Helping the victims of war means helping the victims on both sides. See e.g. http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/europe/features/article_1485073.php

  53. #53 |  Where my soul blossoms… I free my mind!: Japan’s 2011 Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami | 

    […] tight up in the organization. and as I read somewhere, Red Cross or any international non-profit organizations are not the […]

  54. #54 |  Bruce Vaughan | 

    My father served in World War II, he observed about the Red Cross that they would come in followed by the media and when the media left so did the Red Cross. Why would anyone support an organization owned mostly by the Catholic Church?

  55. #55 |  Ken | 

    I’m in St. Louis, Missouri. Our family’s home was destroyed by a tornado last week, not damaged destroyed. We got to the basement and everyone is safe. While we have insurance to rebuild – it takes weeks for the insurance company to get their assessment done. We kept hearing about all the food, clothing, and money being raised locally for the Red Cross. We decided to see what resources would be available to us, so we went to the local community center where we were told the Red Cross was set up. The man said, “what do you need?” We said, “we want to understand what’s assistance is available.” He said, “the community center has a few things in the back – and we have bottle water.” In the back – they had a little of nothing. It was hard for us to even walk in the door and ask for help. I don’t want to sound ungrateful – but this isn’t what I expected. On a positive note, a local church was very generous, our school district has been amazing and Service International crews are working like crazy (another learning, did you know that most insurance companies don’t cover the removal of tree debris?)

  56. #56 |  anita | 

    Ken im soo sorry to hear this! The red cross must be exposed. I know where their money goes. Big time advertising on tv and all over begging for more money and the people at the top im sure are raking in the dough. Its sickening. I just did tons of research about Joplin and the devastating tornado that hit. EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE BLOG POST ETC SAID THEY NEEED SUPPLIES, FOOD, WATER, BLANKETS ETC. …..EXCEPT can you guess? THE RED CROSS. they need money send us money money money money. I packaged up a large box of supplies listed and am shipping it off tomorrow. I can say he LDS church is a great resource. They disclose where the money goes. 90% +is volunteer work and they are usually there right after a major devastation bc they always have an airplane packed and loaded for emergencies. People donate year round and it all gets prepared before disaster strikes so they can be there on scene with the typical disater relief items. Its a great resource for donations.

  57. #57 |  Kathleen | 

    Just a some points to think about.

    First, the mission of the Red Cross is to help those most in need. That means they do not just hand things out, but try to determine who needs what.

    Second, the Red Cross has several parts: the ICRC, the IFRC and the national societies. Whilst all national societies are to adhere to the mission, they are independent organizations, and some function better than others. Please do not make the (common American) mistake of assuming that because your Red Cross does things a certain way that all of the Red Cross does.

    Third, please distinguish between relief and recovery efforts. Much of the work of the Red Cross is in recovery and capacity building although it does some relief as well. Recovery and capacity building are long term, which means years, so the money collected is intended to last.

    Lastly, the Red Cross does not usually distribute supplies. It tries to work with other organizations and does not want to duplicate efforts – if someone else distributes food and clothing or whatever, the Red Cross is not going to compete, so it does not have the facilities to handle such donations.

    Bear in mind that the Red Cross has been around since the 1860s and is in almost every country in the world with millions of volunteers. It requires that all it national societies abide by the fundamental principles, which includes working in all parts of their country without discrimination, and without taking sides.
    http://www.ifrc.org/en/who-we-are/vision-and-mission/the-seven-fundamental-principles/
    It is the guarantor of the Geneva Conventions (it created them) which are the start of International Humanitarian Law. Its code of conduct for relief workers is used by many other relief and humanitarian agencies. This does not mean it does not have faults or make mistakes or that all national societies function well or that you should not donate to other organizations, just that you should look more closely at what it does and give credit where it is due.

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