Toussaint Louverture Strikes Back
January 17, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Wyclef Jean's charity is coming under heavy fire for being unaccountable and ill-prepared to actually distribute emergency aid, despite aggressive fundraising. By contrast, CARE had a staff of 133 in Haiti even before the earthquake hit, has a long track record of providing disaster relief around the globe for decades, and the highest rating from CharityNavigator.org, an independent site that evaluates nonprofits' efficiency and capacity. CARE staff are blogging from the field and you can follow their Haiti updates on Twitter.

The dark side of disaster donations -

Charitable organizations like the Red Cross and NetworkforGood know that donations spike after disasters, if fleetingly (PDF). It's only human to respond to the immediate need, but then quickly fades as people become saturated with requests, and move on to the next thing drawing their attention.

What's the solution? Take the long view. (Companies can, too)

- Do look at a variety of agencies before giving
- Do look for organizations with prior experience and expertise
- Don't donate to a project just because it's "sexy"
- Don't earmark funds
- Don't expect the funds to be spent immediately
posted by ilovemytoaster (77 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
That TSG link is really a revelation; apparently, Wyclef Jean funneled the money back into businesses that he owned, as well as paying himself for a charity concert, with the excuse being that he was charging himself "below market value." "unaccountable and ill-prepared" is being too kind.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:58 PM on January 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'll be surprised if this thread sticks around very long, but I'll point out that among organizations that are in it for the long haul Oxfam International is also a very worthy a global anti-poverty organization (200+ workers in Haiti before the quake). Setting up monthly donations to Oxfam is a great way to make a difference in a sustained way.
posted by washburn at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2010


meant to add - 8th link previously. thanks Inifini.
posted by ilovemytoaster at 5:17 PM on January 17, 2010


More on doubts regarding Wyclef Jean's 'Yele Haiti': 1, 2.

Wyclef Jean: Video Response To Accusations Against 'Yele Haiti' Foundation.
posted by ericb at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2010


I recall reading recently that Wyclef Jean spent some time in Haiti digging bodies out of the rubble. Not much time though. He suddenly decided that helping his country would be better accomplished in the USA.

Hey, I understand. Nobody wants to smell rotting corpses. But he was so vocal about being there in person.

The rest of the actual care workers have no such recourse. But they do have Vick's Vaporub to dab under their noses and bandannas to cover their faces. Oh, uh they have bandannas. Not so much vaporub.

Yeah, give until it hurts. Or gets too smelly. Then run home. And rob people who really care.
posted by Splunge at 5:39 PM on January 17, 2010


IRS compliance guidelines mention inurement of benefits as a possible reason for revoking 501(c)(3) status.

Private Benefit and Inurement

A public charity is prohibited from allowing more than an insubstantial accrual of private benefit to individuals or organizations. This restriction is to ensure that a tax-exempt organization serves a public interest, not a private one. If a private benefit is more than incidental, it could jeopardize the organization's tax-exempt status.

No part of an organization's net earnings may inure to the benefit of an insider. An insider is a person who has a personal or private interest in the activities of the organization such as an officer, director, or a key employee. This means that an organization is prohibited from allowing its income or assets to accrue to insiders. An example of prohibited inurement would include payment of unreasonable compensation to an insider. Any amount of inurement may be grounds for loss of tax-exempt status.

If a public charity provides an economic benefit to any person who is in a position to exercise substantial influence over its affairs (that exceeds the value of any goods or services provided in consideration), the organization has engaged in an excess benefit transaction. A public charity that engages in such a transaction must report it to the IRS. Excise taxes are imposed on any person who engages in an excess benefit transaction with a public charity, and on any organization manager who knowingly approves such a transaction. (See Reporting Excess Benefit Transactions on page 15).

A public charity that becomes aware that it may have engaged in an excess benefit transaction should consult a tax advisor and take appropriate action to avoid any potential impact it could have on the organization's continued exempt status. Go to www.irs.gov/eo for details about inurement, private benefit, and excess benefit transactions.

posted by BrotherCaine at 5:55 PM on January 17, 2010


- Don't donate to a project just because it's "sexy"

So I was wrong when I donated to Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) via Richard Dawkins and Non-Believers Giving Aid: a religion-free way to help disaster victims?
posted by orthogonality at 6:14 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. Because there are so many solid, legit relief organizations doing work out there, or trying to get in to do good work, it's important to know what the bad apples are.
posted by lunasol at 6:17 PM on January 17, 2010


The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund is open now. President Obama asked former Presidents Clinton and Bush 43 to head the effort.

I've already given money to the Red Cross but I intend to give some to this, too.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:34 PM on January 17, 2010


I've already given money to the Red Cross but I intend to give some to this, too.

I struggle to understand how donating to multiple charities help more - surely, it's most economically sound to support the larger ones that already have people on the ground? There's got to be an economy of scale here. Red Cross and MSF all the way.
posted by Jimbob at 6:46 PM on January 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


This gives me new and better reasons to hate Wyclef Jean instead of just hating his music and wanting to punch his face for his bad music and his you-want-to-punch-me-for-intangible-reasons-besides-my-bad-music face.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:47 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


MSF gives all of your donated money to the cause. I think that makes a difference.
posted by Splunge at 6:48 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack wrote: "That TSG link is really a revelation; apparently, Wyclef Jean funneled the money back into businesses that he owned, as well as paying himself for a charity concert, with the excuse being that he was charging himself "below market value." "unaccountable and ill-prepared" is being too kind."

Yes, it's wrong for a charity to pay rent and pay talent to appear at fundraisers. (sarcasm symbol here)

Call me when the charity was paying above-market rates for goods and services so as to benefit a private party.
posted by wierdo at 7:14 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I struggle to understand how donating to multiple charities help more - surely, it's most economically sound to support the larger ones that already have people on the ground? There's got to be an economy of scale here. Red Cross and MSF all the way.

When I made my first donation, the Clinton-Bush fund wasn't yet operating. Now I've decided I want to make another, and I again have to decide who to give it to. A new choice has presented itself and I have decided that's the one I will choose.

As to the Red Cross, my problem is that they have a history of diverting donations to other causes they think are more worthwhile. I've read that the Red Cross is deeply in debt right now, and I fear the possibility that they'll use my donation to pay down their debt instead of trying to help the Haitians. Maybe they won't; maybe they'll do the right thing. I choose not to risk it.

Spreading donations around, as such, is not useful. Making the best decision on who to give your money to each time you choose to donate, however, is useful. I do not believe that the Clinton-Bush fund will steal my money or redirect it. And I seriously doubt that either Clinton or Bush will be getting any salary for this effort.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:18 PM on January 17, 2010


If a charity run by Celebrity X needs starpower for a benefit, I can see paying something below market value to bring in as many draws as they can.

But I don't see why Celebrity X has to pay himself $100,000 to appear at the same benefit. Paying for the crew, support, backup musicians: yep. Paying himself: nope.
posted by maudlin at 7:26 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's a fair answer, although in regards to the Red Cross "diverting" donations, I do have a tendency to trust the "experts" rather than the media-driven public in deciding what a truly worthy cause is. I've always felt slightly icky about the idea that you can donate to money to specific causes, rather than the organisation as a whole. It gives the public too much opportunity to decide that people affected by famine in country X deserve help less than people affected by war in country Y. But, I guess, doing things this way does tend to bring in the money when it's most needed.
posted by Jimbob at 7:28 PM on January 17, 2010


Yes, it's wrong for a charity to pay rent and pay talent to appear at fundraisers.

The head of a charity paying him- or herself is actually wrong. I don't just mean morally wrong (though I think it is), it's prohibited by the US tax code.

Paying the sidemen is fine, because they don't have a decision-making role in the charity. Wyclef Jean has a decision-making role in the charity, and therefore he isn't permitted to take a check from an event organized by the charity.

Let me encourage people to consider Partners in Health, which has been working in Haiti for decades, and which has built a mostly-Haitian staff.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:31 PM on January 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


My suggestion, after a little research:


> http://www.theirc.org/
>
> http://www.pih.org/home.html
>
> And, of course http://doctorswithoutborders.org/
posted by kozad at 7:36 PM on January 17, 2010


Sorry for not posting these as links.

Please paste and copy: they are good organizations.
posted by kozad at 7:39 PM on January 17, 2010


My charity can beat up your charity.
posted by Evilspork at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2010


That's a fair answer, although in regards to the Red Cross "diverting" donations, I do have a tendency to trust the "experts" rather than the media-driven public in deciding what a truly worthy cause is.

As soon as I saw the push for donations, I knew it was coming. The same moronic, right-wing-fueled attacks on the Red Cross that started after 9/11. Heaven forbid your donation should go to a different group of people in desperate need. Charitable donations are not supposed to be like picking out a pair of shoes: "well if you don't have the trendy ones I saw on TV, I guess I'll just keep my money." For fuck's sake.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:50 PM on January 17, 2010 [9 favorites]


[Bunch of comments removed. Please try to take metacommentary/arguments to Metatalk promptly in the future instead of mucking up a thread.]
posted by cortex at 7:54 PM on January 17, 2010


The tiny Port-au-Prince airport has been jammed with incoming flights from global governments and NGOs: people around the world want to help, but the logistical obstacles are maddening. Not only is the airport ill equipped for a massive influx of international aid but the port sustained too much damage for direct receipt of naval cargo, and overland roads were also breached by the earth quake. It's heartbreaking to read the site for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, but it provides additional suggestions for charitable donations if you need them. A lot of legitimate organizations want to help in their different ways, and there's plenty of need. Opportunists shouldn't get away with draining resources that Haitians need.
posted by woodway at 8:08 PM on January 17, 2010


I think this is a pretty smart Felix Salmon piece on what you should do with your donation money.

His main point is that you should make sure you do not earmark your money for Haiti. He points out that the American Red Cross, despite best efforts, has yet to spend nearly $500 million of its earmarked fund for the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster -- this is money that could be used in Haiti right now but for the earmark.

He also recommends donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, but on an unrestricted basis.
posted by Mid at 8:24 PM on January 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've always felt slightly icky about the idea that you can donate to money to specific causes, rather than the organisation as a whole.

It can actually be a big problem for aid organisations: if money comes in specifically earmarked for certain causes, they can't then spend it in other areas. There are still unspent surpluses from the Tsunami appeals that can't be put to better use elsewhere.

This piece gives some more detail, if you can get past the irreponsible and trolling headline.
posted by bonaldi at 8:33 PM on January 17, 2010


Jinx.
posted by Mid at 8:33 PM on January 17, 2010


Wow, did that really take me 9 minutes to type? Oops.
posted by bonaldi at 8:33 PM on January 17, 2010


The same moronic, right-wing-fueled attacks

Maybe dial back the rhetoric a notch. Chocolate Pickle's point is a valid one. If it's made clear that a donation to the Red Cross is just that, and not "a donation to the Red Cross to help Haitians," then fine. But all charity involves selection, and it's trust that keeps the whole thing spinning. Anything undermining that trust hurts more than it helps.

...Much like salting an otherwise-valid argument (that monies may be "diverted," but to an equal need) with histrionics.
posted by cribcage at 8:41 PM on January 17, 2010


After listening to Wyclef's response via his youtube page, his explanations for it seems reasonable. I can see how those expenses were set up to actually go towards the events. I don't think Wyclef would really put all this effort into organizing an NGO so he funnel more money for his personal benefit when he is already a successful musician.
I'm thankful there are people out there who are actually checking into the various organizations and I will keep that charity rating site bookmarked. On a side note, I was more surprised to hear on NPR the other day that text donations can take up to 90 days to reach the organizations.
posted by spacesbetween at 8:53 PM on January 17, 2010


Partners in Health had a compelling combination of strengths for me-- low overhead, folks on the ground in Haiti for 25 years now (even before they were officially established), and a policy of hiring locally whenever that's feasible. In addition, many of their major facilities were located outside Port-au-Prince proper-- such as their HQ in Cange-- enabling them to continue providing services to the population.

They're on Twitter, too, which is where I read up on their operational situation before opting to give.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 9:00 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think Wyclef would really put all this effort into organizing an NGO so he funnel more money for his personal benefit when he is already a successful musician.

Incompetence can be just as dangerous as venality. I don't think that his mission in creating the charity was to pay himself at all; however, I think it speaks poorly to his skills in heading a charity that he didn't even know that that was illegal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:09 PM on January 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


MSF gives all of your donated money to the cause.

Really?
posted by dw at 9:44 PM on January 17, 2010


Yes, it's wrong for a charity to pay rent and pay talent to appear at fundraisers. (sarcasm symbol here)

It's not wrong unless the person being paid by the charity is also a board member of that charity. This is self-dealing and is grounds for having your 501c3 status revoked.
posted by elizardbits at 9:48 PM on January 17, 2010


Partners In Health was in Haiti before the quake and they'll be in Haiti long after the Red Cross heads out. PIH is the one to go with if you're taking the long view, and they have low overhead and fundraising expenditures.
posted by dw at 9:52 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Incompetence can be just as dangerous as venality.

I can buy that after watching Mr. Jean's video. What surprises me is his insistence that people donate specifically to Yele Haiti, instead of simply encouraging people to give. Hopefully he'll reverse that stance after some sleep.

I believe the guy wants to help. He says he formed an NGO to provide aid when more established NGOs haven't met the need. But right now the need is stark and simple: get the roads clear, treat the survivors, and bury the dead. Unless he's meeting those needs, he should be directing Yele Haiti's donations to those who can.
posted by Monsters at 10:03 PM on January 17, 2010


I agree with Sidhedevil's criticism of Wyclef Jean. I think Jean is impassioned and genuinely
wants to help Haiti, but I think he needs to hire someone that knows WTF they're doing to run Yele Haiti.

I wonder if Yele Haiti has a board of directors? And if so, why don't they hold his feet to the fire?
posted by bugmuncher at 10:08 PM on January 17, 2010


OK, I re-read TSG and TWP, and I'm reminded that there is a president and a board of directors.

Being a director of my local arts council, the notion of a board that doesn't devote itself to good governance practices (such as compliance) strikes me as completely incompetent.
posted by bugmuncher at 10:25 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's CharityNavigator's take on Yele Haiti.
posted by bugmuncher at 11:09 PM on January 17, 2010


spacesbetween: After listening to Wyclef's response via his youtube page, his explanations for it seems reasonable.

Maybe you and I watched different videos.

The one I watched went like this:
"I just went to Haiti but had to come back to raise money because I'm committed to Haiti. In the short time I was there I dug up dead kids so don't attack me or my foundation. I have footage that shows that things are awful there, and NGO stands for Non-Governmental Organization and I started my own. Haiti has experienced many NGOs and sometime I work with them to help people. I denounce the statement that Wyclef profited from his own foundation; we put on shows and shows employ people and cost money. I don't take money from my foundation [proven false] and I gave them a million dollars. Anybody that wants to attack my foundation ... [alpha male threat display of rubbing hands, crossing arms, then wiping jaw from 3:31 to 3:37] ... my NGO works with other great NGO's to get results. I have footage of how awful it is in Haiti that I will share later, so you decide [aggressive jaw rubbing, hand rubbing from 4:07 to 4:20] if I was chosen for a reason. My country will rise; emergency! give me money. Thank you for supporting Haiti."
He never addressed the fundamental questions: how is the donated money spent? How do donations help the people of Haiti in the short-term or long-term? What results has Yele-Haiti delivered in the past and what are your goals for the future? What expertise does he bring to the table in revitalizing Haiti? Who does Yele serve, who do they answer to, and how do they measure their results?

I love Wyclef's music but I don't think I'll be able to hear it the same way after this. He should take a look a Sean Penn's Katrina work and shut up and give his money to where it will do some good.
posted by peeedro at 11:12 PM on January 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, they probably ran the charity in a lackadaisical way before the earthquake. They've raised more money in the past few days then most of their prior income. I think the idea that they're ripping people off now or that he's taking all the money for himself now is unlikely. They apparently spent 69% on programs, which is low but not terrible. It's likely that more of the money is going out now.
posted by delmoi at 11:26 PM on January 17, 2010


Yes, it's wrong for a charity to pay rent and pay talent to appear at fundraisers. (sarcasm symbol here)

Paying your for-profit company from your nonprofit charity's funds for you to appear at a benefit concert (it just says "a benefit concert", it could have even been a fundraiser for his own charity, which would make it a total shell game) doesn't strike you as the least bit fucked up? I don't care what he paid himself, "below market value" or not. There's a special place in hell for this asshole.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:29 PM on January 17, 2010


@DW

I meant The Non-Believers group. But it seems that they have chosen MSF and the International Red Cross to pass their donations along to. And acording to your link I can understand your point. I sit corrected. My mistake.
posted by Splunge at 11:52 PM on January 17, 2010


From his blog, it looks like he's just planning to buy a bunch of powerbars and ship them over via Fedex (ok a bit of hyperbole, but it's seriously lame). It seems to have a disorganized kindergarten-blocks operation feel to it.

I have zero confidence in his ability to understand any sort of logistics challeneges, or any prior experience in an insecure zone. I'm not even sure what he's done so far, from the looks of it, they haven't shipped anything over yet, and I don't know what kind of current operations he has now. If his only plan so far with the millions in donations is to Fedex over some energy bars, that's pretty fucking bad.
posted by amuseDetachment at 12:03 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


From his blog, it looks like he's just planning to buy a bunch of powerbars and ship them over via Fedex (ok a bit of hyperbole, but it's seriously lame)

Not much hyperbole. Powerbars? Seriously? Powerbars?
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:19 AM on January 18, 2010


Looking at the blog post it doesn't seem like the donated money will buy the power bars though. We need to go out and get some powerbars, loosely wrap a bunch of candles, and travel back in time to Miami by this morning in order to make sure they get there.

Wyclef dude, seriously, lay off the chronic.
posted by mannequito at 12:35 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


CARE's website doesn't make it easy to find out what its name is an acronym for. I was betting the C stood for Christian and that it was just another one of those organizations bartering aid for souls, but according to Wikipedia it was: 'originally "Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe", and later "Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere"'. I learned something new today.
posted by fairmettle at 2:13 AM on January 18, 2010


the imf arent doing very well either.
(but thats only a few hundred million)
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:17 AM on January 18, 2010


Thanks for starting this discussion, ilovemytoaster, and thanks to others for all the comments and suggestions. This is very useful.
posted by carter at 4:24 AM on January 18, 2010


I don't think Wyclef would really put all this effort into organizing an NGO so he funnel more money for his personal benefit when he is already a successful musician.

Vouching for his character and his bank balance?
posted by Brian B. at 6:36 AM on January 18, 2010


There are an awful lot of charities out there for Haiti now. Are they going to pool their resources and strategize together? Do they ever do that?
posted by anniecat at 6:51 AM on January 18, 2010


when he is already a successful musician

You know different musicians than I know.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:55 AM on January 18, 2010


Regarding the Felix Salmon article above, note that there is a lot of eloquent dissent in the comments section, so don't take his word as gospel, though I do believe he is basically right.
posted by Mid at 6:56 AM on January 18, 2010



You know different musicians than I know.


Huh? Wyclef's sold millions and millions of records, he's not some guy in a crappy indie rock band. Why would you even say this?
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:14 AM on January 18, 2010


Hmmm... do I give money to the Red Cross or a terrible rapper with a Bob Marley complex who broke up the Fugees?
posted by electroboy at 7:15 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hmmm... do I give money to the Red Cross or a terrible rapper with a Bob Marley complex who broke up the Fugees?

This
posted by ob at 8:34 AM on January 18, 2010


Magnitude 6.0 quake hits Guatemala coast.
posted by ericb at 9:01 AM on January 18, 2010


I meant The Non-Believers group. But it seems that they have chosen MSF and the International Red Cross to pass their donations along to. And acording to your link I can understand your point. I sit corrected. My mistake.

No worries. I just have issues when people say "100% goes directly to the people in need" when there's no charity of scale on Earth that can do that. I understood what the Non-Believers group was saying, though -- they weren't taking a cut -- but what sites out there linking to the IRC and MSF are taking cuts?
posted by dw at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2010


Wyclef's sold millions and millions of records, he's not some guy in a crappy indie rock band.

Seems like every week we have a post about how even successful musicians are being ruined by the internet. Either he has plenty of money, or the internet is the devil, it can't be both. =p

Also, Cartman does Bubblegoose better than Wyclef.
posted by nomisxid at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2010


There are an awful lot of charities out there for Haiti now. Are they going to pool their resources and strategize together? Do they ever do that?

That's usually how it works. The large relief orgs will meet and determine the best plan for distributing relief, which could mean establishing zones for each charity or parceling out the trucks and copters in a way that every area is getting aid. In a situation like Haiti, where there's one runway, no port, and a barely functioning government, coordination is vital to getting aid effectively distributed.

Usually this coordination means religious and secular NGOs are working alongside each other or in particular neighborhoods on their own.
posted by dw at 9:19 AM on January 18, 2010


There are an awful lot of charities out there for Haiti now. Are they going to pool their resources and strategize together? Do they ever do that?
It happens from time to time. As many upthread have pointed out, various aid agencies have maintained persistent presences in developing nations such that when a disaster strikes, certain groups are in a better position to assist certain communities than others. UNICEF has a warehouse in this village. MSF has a clinic in that city. Oxfam has a coordinator whose connected to public officials in another province. So, naturally, it makes more sense to take advantage of infrastructure and resources that are already in place rather than re-invent the wheel.

The main challenge within coordination is that you rarely ever have perfect information about who needs what and who has the solution for that need. MSF is a fantastic NGO, but they are specialized around the issues of medical care and aren't the best group for, say, food distribution, while Oxfam has well built competencies in water and sanitation, but don't do as much with, say, reconstruction assistance*. So, it's not like you can just pick the Red Cross and tell them "hey, fix this area" because the people there may have different needs that may be more easily satisfied by UNICEF. What one really needs is a national organization like FEMA that can handle the information collection and coordination and let the NGO's do what they're best at. Unfortunately, most nations (US included) have not developed this sort of sophisticated infrastructure, so typically that burden falls into a loose coalition of, say, the UN plus various foreign aid reps plus local governments plus directors for the biggers NGO's. The politics can be byzantine, to say the least.

I spent some time volunteering in Mississippi to do reconstruction in the wake of Katrina, working with a volunteer group that is now called Hands On Disaster Response, and our general goal was to be a roving pool of free labor, as well as freelance case workers for residents in need of help, who couldn't quite figure out if the person most equipped to help them were FEMA, MEMA, their neighbors or the Salvation Army. A lot of folks in that outfit had experience as emergency workers in post tsunami Thailand, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, etc. and they were full of interesting stories about the various and unfortunate follies that come from being a good samaritan.

* -- One argument, in truth, for the approach of distributing your charity dollars is precisely because there is no "one-size-does-all" charity. Giving everything to MSF ensure that people will be treated well for dysentry, but doesn't necessarily help them get clean water afterwards.

Personally, my donation diversification strategy is to give varying amounts to MSF, Oxfam and UNICEF, which hits my major hot buttons of emergency medical aid, community rehabilitation and overall family care.

posted by bl1nk at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are an awful lot of charities out there for Haiti now. Are they going to pool their resources and strategize together? Do they ever do that?

I'm watching CNN right now. They are interviewing a representative from WorldVision. She mentioned U'N.'s OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) hosts a morning meeting with all NGOs to coordinate activity and minimize reduplication of effort.
posted by ericb at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2010


OCHA's 3W (Who does What Where) Contact Management Directory
"Welcome to the Who does What Where Database and Contact Management Directory - 3W Version 3.11 for ocha_na_ht. This application was developed by the OCHA-FIS as part of OCHA's Field Information Management Strategy.

To ensure that appropriate and timely humanitarian response is delivered during a disaster or emergency situation, information must be managed efficiently. The key information that are important to assess and ensure that humanitarian needs are met in any emergency/disaster are, to know which organizations(Who) are carrying out what activities (What) in which locations (Where) which is also universally referred to as the 3W (Who does What Where). The Who does What Where database (3W) is one product that is universally agreed to be the most important priority for any co-ordination activity. The integrated Contact Management Directory, complements the 3W database, making it easy for the user to navigate through the application."
posted by ericb at 9:43 AM on January 18, 2010



Chocolate Pickle: "I've read that the Red Cross is deeply in debt right now, and I fear the possibility that they'll use my donation to pay down their debt instead of trying to help the Haitians."


This isn't accurate, although it's a common misunderstanding. The American Red Cross has $613 million in debt, balanced by $3.5 billion in assets. All told, they're positive to around $1.6 billion.

Source: June 30 2009 financial statement
posted by ivey at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just have issues when people say "100% goes directly to the people in need" when there's no charity of scale on Earth that can do that.

I think there are a few charities that can credibly say that they put all public donations into program services, and use private grants for their operating expenses. But if "charity of scale" means Red Cross sized, then you are correct. Anyway, you can always use guidestar.org to look up overhead/fundraising/program service ratios for the charity to which you are donating. Not that program service expenses don't sometimes represent some overhead as well depending on the accounting.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:10 AM on January 18, 2010


Building on what bl1nk said, here in Canada, The Humanitarian Coalition (Oxfam Canada, Oxfam Québec, CARE Canada and UNICEF Canada) was developed in an attempt to coordinate what each of these NGOs does best. They've been active since 2005.

Any Haiti donations made to the collective will be matched by the federal government, the same as they're doing for other Canadian charities acting for Haiti, so Canadians may find this to be a very effective place to send their donated money, along with MSF Canada.
posted by maudlin at 12:31 PM on January 18, 2010


The WSJ had an article today that said donations sent via text may take 30 to 90 days to arrive, although it looks like the phone companies are making a good faith effort to send the money right away.
posted by electroboy at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2010


I think there are a few charities that can credibly say that they put all public donations into program services, and use private grants for their operating expenses. But if "charity of scale" means Red Cross sized, then you are correct.

That's what I was saying. If you're a little charity you might be able to be zero expense, but once you start trying to deal with anything beyond a handful of clients you're going to incur expenses. Once you reach something the size of the Red Cross or MSF you're going to have a full-time staff handling everything from donation processing to procurement to the general bureaucracy of having a full-time staff. And it's usually at that point there's a lot of misunderstanding about the overhead from donors. For some, anything more than 1% and your staff is flushing donors' money down gold-plated toilets while drinking Dom Peringnon and smoking Cohibas.

For others, it's How Dare You Pay People Anything. When I worked for an NFP/NGO back in the day I had people astonished that they were paying me when clearly I should be volunteer, never mind that at the time I was making only a couple dollars over minimum wage.

This is why people should be familiar with Guidestar and Charity Navigator and understand what they're measuring.
posted by dw at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2010


I do find it odd, though, that the Non-Believers site would tout how they were "helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans" when only a small minority actually believe that -- and then would plug the Red Cross, which doesn't garner the full four stars from Charity Navigator and has been fraught with scandal the last decade. It suggests they think right belief supersedes efficiency and effectiveness, which is the exact mistake religious conservatives have made over with regards to charity over the years.

The right thing is to give, but to consider the why and what of the organization you're giving to. This is why I chose PIH over other NFPs/NGOs, both religious and secular. I believe in the long view for Haiti, and the best people for the long haul are the ones who have been there for the long haul already.
posted by dw at 3:04 PM on January 18, 2010


There's an implication in the commentary that WJ has been syphoning off money in the wake of the Haitian tragedy and that is definitely not what has happened. The article addresses issues raised before the earthquake. It seems to me that he's a man who cares about Haiti, and who has been raising money and awareness about the country prior to the disaster. That seems pretty commendable to me, and if he's not now able to cope with the influx of money and the complexity of the situation, then more capable disaster charities need to contact him (instead of trying to score points).

I'm also comfortable with the fact that he's asking for money for his own charity as opposed to other charities. Personally, I think he needs to hold on to that money until a time when the main relief effort has finished, and then start moving that saved money into Haiti. It's the poorest Caribbean island, and my feeling is that they're going to need aid for years to come.

The sadness here is that after everyone has grown bored with Haiti and the donations have dried up, he's going to be left trying to continue to help a poor helpless country with a charitable company that may have been critically damaged by this scandal.
posted by seanyboy at 3:15 PM on January 18, 2010


Luxury Cruise Ship Docks On Private Haitian Beach, Hosts Barbecue Just 60 Miles From Devastation.
posted by ericb at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2010


There's an implication in the commentary that WJ has been syphoning off money in the wake of the Haitian tragedy and that is definitely not what has happened.

Definitely? Hardly. WJ - by any definition - has run this charity poorly. He hasn't even managed to keep it legally "legitimate," as paperwork and taxes are routinely not filed according to the law. Most of the money the charity's collected and spent has been spent on things that are, to say the least, very very dubious.

This is a link to an article that raises about a skillion reasonable questions about the ability of Wyclef Jean's charity to do just about anything right. And although I can't say for sure he's an outright criminal, it's beginning to feel that way to me. See:

The source familiar with Yele Haiti's operations says the most outrageous expenditure—$250,000 in 2006 to purchase airtime on the Haitian television network Telemax, which Jean and his business partner own a controlling interest in—is even more troubling than it seems. Jean actually used Yele Haiti's money to initially purchase Telemax, and came up with the idea of the donated airtime after the fact to explain the expense. "That money was taken out of Yele," the source says, "and the story was concocted afterward. Hugh Locke looked at the balance sheet and saw $250,000 missing. Wyclef said he'd already spent it on Telemax. Locke said, 'We can't do that. This can't be fraud—we have to get something in return.' The only thing they could get back from Telemax was the airtime, which they did."

Locke flatly denies that account, saying Jean had already made the Telemax purchase before Yele Haiti bought the airtime. "We wanted to establish a mechanism for getting information out in Haiti," Locke says, "and it made sense for us to purchase airtime in bulk in advance to get a better rate." So why didn't Jean just donate the airtime then, since he owns the company? "We wanted to make sure we could control the spots and not get pushed around, so we bought them outright."


That just sounds like bullshit to me. And since he's distributed very little in the way of aid, what the fuck does he need Haitian airtime for anyway? I'll give him some benefit of the doubt - like the article does - but it's clear that his charity isn't ready in any way to help, and it's obvious that if he had any class, he'd be forking it over to CARE or the Red Cross or someone.

Additionally, more than half of all Haitians live on less than $1 a day. The majority of Haitians don't have electricity, let alone television. So even if Wyclef Jean could explain why $250,000 was spent on "airtime," who was going to see it? Not, for the most part, Haiti's poor and needy.

And this bit: So why didn't Jean just donate the airtime then, since he owns the company? "We wanted to make sure we could control the spots and not get pushed around, so we bought them outright."

Pushed around by whom? HE OWNS THE FUCKING COMPANY.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:03 PM on January 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


DecemberBoy wrote: "
Paying your for-profit company from your nonprofit charity's funds for you to appear at a benefit concert (it just says "a benefit concert", it could have even been a fundraiser for his own charity, which would make it a total shell game) doesn't strike you as the least bit fucked up? I don't care what he paid himself, "below market value" or not. There's a special place in hell for this asshole.
"

No more than I would consider it fucked up for them to hire some other talent for the benefit. As long as they are paying market rate or below for services normally paid for, I don't see the problem, aside from the perception issues it creates. (which is a definite failing, but not of the moral sort, just the intelligence sort)

Certainly the rent thing I have no issue with whatsoever, again presuming that the rates paid were at or below market rate. They have to rent somewhere, it may as well be close by. If I'm willing to give my foundation cheap rent, why should they pay more in the building next door?
posted by wierdo at 9:08 PM on January 18, 2010


Again on not-preview, I can see this is turning into a good old fashioned MeFi two minutes' hate, so I'll respectfully bow out of any further discussion on this topic.
posted by wierdo at 9:10 PM on January 18, 2010


I want to send my Haiti-aid money to the Cubans!!

They were on the ground with medical people (over 400) before the crisis, and are now treating over 600 patients a day. They have trained 'paramedics' in the community to help. The US could really learn from Cuba. (vid)

Cuba has exported over 30,000 doctors to over 100 underdeveloped countries around the world. Their work in the Pakistan quake crisis was phenomenal.

As an American I can not send money directly to Cuba, so if any Canadians know of agencies who are supporting Cuban medical teams, please let me know. I am serious.

AND ... after all, Obama has appointed Dubbya to supervise the US 'reconstruction' efforts for Haiti?? Was that presumably because of the wonderful job he did supervising the post Katrina aid program??
posted by Surfurrus at 10:06 PM on January 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


More on Yelegate.
posted by availablelight at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2010


AND ... after all, Obama has appointed Dubbya to supervise the US 'reconstruction' efforts for Haiti??

Stop with the hyperbole.

Obama has tasked Clinton and Bush to raise funds, not to direct any reconstruction. That's it. Raise awareness. Raise money.

A smart move in making the effort "not about politics."
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on January 20, 2010


Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
"The earthquake that rocked the coast of Haiti killed or injured a devastating number of people. Even more were left in need of aid, making this one of the major humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. In the aftermath of the disaster, President Barack Obama asked President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to raise funds for immediate, high-impact relief and long-term recovery efforts to help those who are most in need of assistance. In response, the two Presidents established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) to respond to unmet needs in the country, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life over the long term for those affected, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and 'build back better.' The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund will do this by working with and supporting the efforts of reputable 501(c)(3) nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations. Presidents Clinton and Bush oversee the CBHF through their respective nonprofit organizations, the William J. Clinton Foundation and Communities Foundation of Texas. One hundred percent of donations made to the Clinton Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas go directly to relief efforts."
posted by ericb at 3:54 PM on January 20, 2010


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