Popular blogger Saundra Schimmelpfennig of “Good Intentions are Not Enough” has blogged some things to consider before giving money to help in Japan. With the desire of people to help after the devastation of the Japan earthquake, good hearted people are going to be making a lot of choices on how to help. Saundra has some do’s and don’ts of helping in a disaster. They were good for me to consider. I will share the points with you and make a few comments on them.
- Do determine if the country is accepting international assistance.
With all the horrible pictures that you see in the media of the devastation of the disaster, you would think that a government would want help and aid in any and every way possible. That is not always true. Most governments want to personally direct the relief efforts. As a result, before sending donations, you should make sure that the government is actually allowing the kind of assistance you are proposing. If you are giving to a relief organization, make sure that what they are doing is what the government is allowing.
2. Do look at a variety of nonprofits before giving.
Thousands of organizations will be responding to this disaster. It shows the great hearts of so many people. But wouldn’t it be wise to take a little time to evaluate some of them before you give? Is this nonprofit one you know and have trusted in the past? Or is it possibly someone who has just jumped in there and may not distribute a great percentage of the money given? On the other hand, just because you know an organization doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be good helping everywhere. Have they ever worked in this country before? Have they ever helped in this kind of relief before? Are they willing to partner with strategic workers that have expertise that they don’t have?
3. Do look for organizations with prior experience and expertise.
Has this nonprofit done a good job in the past? Is this really what they do well. Take a good look at what they did in Haiti. Were you pleased with how and where they spent their money? If not, find someone who did a good job there and also is helping in a similar way with Japanese people and their unique needs.
4. Don’t donate to a project just because it’s “sexy”.
All the movie stars and rock musicians come out in times of tragedy. I’m glad they use their notoriety to help unfortunate people. But make sure that you are giving to the need and not just to the most glamorous spokesperson. Certainly, we should be helping in Japan. But my wife, Barbie, is in Kenya currently and told me of all the children on the coast who have no food to eat because of the famine. Thousands will be dying from a lack of food there in the next few weeks. But you won’t know about it. It’s because popular people aren’t preaching it. Do a little research. Find out the greatest needs in Japan. Find out the greatest needs globally. In the past, I have seen designated money given to exclusively help orphans in places where the tragedy didn’t necessarily produce orphans. As a result, people were lying about their families or abandoning children just to qualify for the aid. Don’t designate your money in such a way that it could hinder instead of best help.
5. Don’t take up a collection of goods to send over.
Used clothing may be inappropriate to the culture and the climate. It also can hurt local textile markets in the place of disaster. Charitable gifts can also can cause unnecessary traffic at ports to the point that the most needed items of relief cannot get through because of the stuff we have sent. Sorting out gifts is not easy to do in times of disaster. When I was in Haiti, so much of the aid was wasted simply because of the inability of someone to sort out what was needed and not needed. Much of the needed supplies were simply not used because they were eclipsed by well meaning gifts of junk.
A general rule of thumb is to always send money rather than collecting goods. Shipping is expensive and doesn’t always help the economy in the country of disaster. And make sure that the organization you are giving to can be trusted and able to deliver the help.
We need to be helping in Japan (and even the coast of Kenya), and let’s get with it and start making a difference. But as our hearts have been touched, let’s use our heads to make sure we are really making a difference.