The Dos and Don’ts of Disaster Donations

It may not surprise you to know that we, at Lutheran World Relief, get the largest numbers of donations following a well-publicized natural disaster, like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, or the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As much as we try to publicize the sustainable development work that we do to help people get out of long-term poverty and build resilience to unforeseen disasters, it is the tragic emergencies that get the most attention.

It’d be easy to play the blame game: blame it on viewer-hungry media, blame it on sentimentality, or sensational imagery, but I think trying to lay blame doesn’t actually help anybody or anything.

That’s why I was pleased to come across this article on the blog Good Intentions are Not Enough. The author, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, has seen almost every side of international nonprofits, and gives some great advice to donors looking to make the most of their dollars.

Here are a few snippets:

Do look for organizations with prior experience and expertise
There is a great deal of money after well publicized disasters. The ease of raising money makes it tempting to respond even if the organization does not have prior experience in that area.…

Don’t donate to a project just because it’s “sexy”
Recovery projects that are inherently attractive to donors – such as orphanages or boats – are easier to fund but may not be what is most needed. After the 2004 tsunami orphanages were built in excess…

Pie Chart of LWR's Efficiency RatioAs proud as we are of our 4-star Charity Navigator (CN) rating and our 90.7% efficiency ratio (the percent of every dollar donated that goes directly to programming), we’ve also championed CN’s move away from financial-only reporting. So it was good to see this advice as well:

Don’t evaluate an organization based on the amount spent on administration cost
The amount an organization spends on administration is no indication of its quality. The pressure to keep administration costs low may lead to organizations understaffing their projects or hiring unqualified staff that may not have the skills to do their job…

Continue reading The Dos and Don’ts of Disaster Donations at Good Intentions are Not Enough.

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