Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Tsunami Relief: Charity Efficiency and Transparency Ratings
My contribution to the blogosphere's response to the tsunami...
Here's Google's tsunami relief page, here's the Tsunami Blog and Wiki, and here is a table with ratings by watchdog organizations on the efficiency of the relief organizations most prominently mentioned, plus news:
(Since Charity Navigator's site seems to be having trouble with heavy load, I am adding links to the Google cache of their ratings, following the stars.)
||Charity Navigator's rating (and Google cache thereof)
|Association for India's Development
||Seems to be big in India, oft mentioned on tsunami blog
|Medecins Sans Frontieres
(Doctors w/o Borders)
||Spends a lot on fundraising, but has a reputation for boldness -- going where many others don't (e.g. Myanmar?)
||Spends a lot on fundraising. BBB objects to dodgy credit card promotion.
||An article in Lancet(free registration required) criticizes the present director's focus on childrens' legal rights at the expense of basic survival aid. Anyone have any data on UNICEF's own efficiency, as opposed to national charities funneling money to it?
|American Red Cross(via Amazon)
||Big but apparently efficient; came under fire for usage of 9/11 funds and related issues; the BBB report has lots of details
||Christian charity with child and family sponsorships, added by request; US site having trouble?
||added by request
|American Friends Service Committee
||Quaker charity; added by request
|Asha for Education
||Extremely efficient (volunteer staff, 98% to programs); usually focuses on education and long-term socioeconomic change, but responding to the disaster; added by request
|American Jewish World Service
||Jewish international development charity; added by request
||Christian relief organization, added by request. Huge(13.5K employees), reputed to be very efficient (86% of funds to projects, volunteerism), low-key proselytizing, accused of discrimination against gays
|Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
||Unitarian relief organization, added by request.
|Christian Children's Fund
||Historically Christian, but apparently non-proselytizing international relief and development organization, added by request
||Extremely efficient (99% to programs) nonprofit specialized in international disasters, added by request
|Islamic Relief Worldwide
||Islamic relief organization, has relief operations running (from before the disaster) in Sri Lanka and in Indonesia, added by request
||Local Sri Lankan charity, recommended by Sir Arthur C. Clarke: "a 45 year track record in reaching out and helping the poorest of the poor...has mounted a well organised, countrywide relief effort".
|Catholic Relief Services
||Catholic relief organization, added by request
These ratings do not necessarily tell the whole story. The efficiency ratings rely on the distinction between "administrative", "promotional", and "administrative" expenses: what constitutes "program" expenses may vary greatly from charity to charity. For instance, the United States Fund for UNICEF gets four stars because 88.5% percent of its revenues go to "programs". But "programs" in this case means "giving the money to UNICEF" (as well it should, since that's its mandate). The 3.4% of administrative expenses listed does not include UNICEF's own administrative expenses. (However, UNICEF's FAQ says "you can choose to earmark your contribution for the tsunami relief effort...As each of UNICEF’s Country Offices have their own annual budget to cover their overhead costs, your donation can go solely to the relief effort").
It pays to poke around. Look in the comments of this post for people's discussion of pros and cons of different charities, in addition to my own decisions.
Network for Good, also mentioned on the Google page, does not itself accept donations for tsunami relief, but rather provides further links to several different charities.
eBay's Tsunami Disaster Relief Page allows you to sell things on eBay and automatically donate 10-100% of the proceeds to one of eight charities.
If you are specifically interested in any others, let me know and I'll add them. I'm also interested in other feedback and reports on the charities, particularly if you have links (such as to news articles) that can document any problems that may be relevant.
American Institute of Philanthropy's criteria. Here is their page on the most effective ways to help victims of the tsunami (e.g. it's better to donate money than goods, beware of fly-by-night charities).
Charity Navigator's criteria ( or via the Google cache).
The Tsunami blog also mentions various other funds which are local to India and SE Asia; I don't have any information on their efficiency or transparency.
Give wisely, generously, and soon.
Update: Now that many billions of dollars have been earmarked for tsunami relief and reconstruction, by governments,
corporations, and private individuals, you may want to consider donating to these charities' general funds,
rather than earmarking your donation for the tsunami. Though the tsunami is the worst natural disaster of recent
times, killing more than 150,000 people, it is dwarfed by things like AIDS
(which has killed 19 million people
destroying much of sub-Saharan Africa) and the
war in the Congo (which has killed 3.8 million
people, mainly from disease and starvation, since 1998).
Posted by benrosen at December 29, 2004 08:08 AM
| Up to blog
I suggest World Vision? They are a Christian charity with child and family sponsorships, with a project-vs-admin ratio of $0.86 per dollar (to projects) (worldvision.org)...
I'd like to see data on how these charities handled 9/11 donations. I'm not giving a dime to a certain organization that squandered our goodwill.
Here's the rating for UNICEF: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/4617.htm
It's usually listed under United States Fund for UNICEF. It got **** from Charity Navigator.
Sorry to post again:
From BBB: Yes for UNICEF
I don't see it on AIP.
I'd really like to see efficiency information included along with the other criteria. Perhaps also a 'tick-the-box' situation as to whether donations go towards proselytising too.
JS: the BBB report on the Red Cross discusses in detail their handling of the 9/11 money. They are still sitting on some of it, but there may be good reasons for that. I haven't run across other discussions of that aspect, but I'm sure there are some out there.
Joe: Actually I looked at that, but the problem is that the United States Fund for UNICEF seems to be a "funnel" charity. They are efficient in terms of their major "project", which is grants to UNICEF. That doesn't, however, tell you what UNICEF does with the money, in terms of real projects vs. administrative/bureaucratic overhead, etc.
Jackson, that would be interesting; but I don't know where to get that information, and it's also hard to define "proselytizing". I'm a big fan of the Grameen Foundation, which is a secular charity and doesn't proselytize in a religious sense -- but they do promote particular social practices, even to the extent of, for instance, asking credit recipients to pledge not to engage in dowry marriage! Is that proselytizing?
So your best bet with regards to that issue is to go to the charity's website and poke around to see if their philosophy fits yours, and what they consider "programs".
Mercy Corps (AIP B+; BBB yes: Charity Navigator ****)
American Friends Service Committee (AIP A-; BBB yes; Charity Navigator not listed)
The Charity Navigator site seems slow to load; may be taking a lot of hits today.
People might want to consider giving to the following:
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societits www.ifrc.org -- the world's largest humanitarian organization.
Added World Vision, Mercy Corps, AFSC. The watchdogs I'm familiar with seem to have information on the American Red Cross rather than IFRC. However, now I'm wondering if ARC and IFRC have the same funnel/destination relationship as United States Fund for UNICEF and UNICEF, which might artificially inflate ARC's efficiency (i.e., some layers of bureaucracy are "hidden" by the transfer between ARC and IFRC). Anyone know anything about this?
Isn't the Red Cross and United Way constantly coming into little scandals because of how little of each dollar makes it to the victim in need? After 9/11 there was an investigation as to how the Red Cross squandered most the donations for the victims' fund.
How about trying to find out and publish how much of every dollar donated actually goes to the people in need (especially the children)?
Charity Navigator on CARE (***). Not bad, but had I known about Charity Navigator I may have given to American Red Cross instead. My only criteria were a) doesn't exist to spend money on fundraising (I checked on guidestar) and b) doesn't proselytize for jesus and preferably isn't xian at all.
Association for India's Development (AID) has been active in South India, specially Tamil Nadu since Sunday and has been coordinating relief efforts with local NGOs to reach out in areas where the government, ICRC and UNICEF effort is lacking. AID has already released $75,000 in immediate relief and is working to develop plans for meeting medium term as well as long term needs. For more information and to contribute: http://survivors.aidindia.org/
P.S. At times the web site may be experiencing heavy traffic. Please bear with us.
lc, I added some links relating to the controversy around the American Red Cross's usage of 9/11 funds. There is a breakdown of disbursed money in the BBB report. From a cursory reading, it looks like they were sluggish and bureaucratic about disbursing the money, but most of it has been given out. It also seems like many people thought it was all going to victim's families, when in fact a lot of it went to infrastructural items like call centers. Infrastructure is important too, though.
There was also controversy around the fact that the ICRC knew about the Abu Ghraib abuses and complained in private to the US, rather than going public. "Red Cross workers insist that the policy of talking only to prison authorities about abuses they have witnessed is what opens the prison gates for them."
Big organizations like the Red Cross are to some extent magnets for this kind of complaint (complaining about the financial practices of, say, the National Association of Police Athletic Leagues is not going to make headlines), which is why the hard data collected by the watchdog organizations can be a useful corrective.
There was also a scandal involving ongoing child abuse by local UNHCR and Save the Children employees that may have tangentially involved other NGOs.
Anup, thanks for posting! You were first on the list from the beginning. :-)
A friend in Singapore suggested the Singapore Red Cross. He claims they are very well organized and will likely be a big part of the relief efforts throughout Indonesia.
Thanks, Franky. Does anyone know anything about watchdog organizations outside of the USA?
I also wonder how independent the various Red Crosses are from one another, and whether it might indeed maximize efficiency to donate directly to a local one?
The Singapore Red Cross seems to have online donation. I haven't tried it to see if it takes US credit cards.
Asha for Education is also doing work in the affected areas in India. You can find regular updates at http://ashatsunamirelief.blogspot.com/
To support these relief efforts donations can be made online at http://www.ashanet.org/
Also Please note and correct if possible that AID and Asha for Education have 4 star ratings from Charity Navigator. Both of these organisations are on the ground and working with grass roots project partners to bring relief to the survivors.
In Charity Navigator search for "Asha for Education" and "Association for India's DEvelopment"
The only issue with the charity navigator is that it reports charities that receive more than $500,000 in public support with require 4 years of Forms 990 to complete an evaluation.
Ours usually is under $50K (as 90% of our work is pro-bono) and as we are a small organization 0% is spent on admin. - I don't take a salary and cover admin. costs. We also work with partners who employ local labor and utilize construction techniques.
By working with those affected this keeps funds within the community and creates micro-economies for those trying to get out of this disaster. We have found this to be the most cost-effective way of rebuilding.
Back on topic I think Guidestar is more inclusive but there support sucks (online updating has been down for FOUR months and no-one returns calls).
Cheers for bringing this topic up - it is vitally important in relief work.
I made a donation through American Jewish World Service which is a wonderful and efficient org. www.ajws.org
One last thought - any massive organization such as the Red Cross already has disaster supplies at hand and in stock, they don't run to the store the moment someone hands them a check. They also have emergency funds at hand for dispursement. Any money going to them is for future restocking, not to help someone tomorrow or next week. IMHO, the smaller and mid-sized organizations are the ones I want give to, they logically should move faster and have less administration overhead (Red Cross spent $100 million out of the 9/11 $500 million on telecommunications, accounting and database management systems???!!!) Apparently they have $2 billion in assets right now: http://google.com/search?q=cache:www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/3277.htm
compare that to $15 million Unicef assets:
Hi Cameron, that's a good point: the small organizations must really slip through the cracks. Perhaps I can add Guidestar ratings later, if I have time. Your organization looks really cool.
(The other problem with Charity Navigator is that they're generating all their pages dynamically as Java servlets on JRun; I think they're finding out today that that doesn't scale. :-/ But that's what Google is for, I guess...)
Sarah, I added AJWS.
How does The Salvation Army rate?
Its very troubling to see that Network Solutions has somehow fouled up the DNS routing for the Doctors Without Borders website. if you TRY to go to http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org you quickly get routed to some Network Associates Search page that offers other charities to give funds to! Of course, folks get listed on the NetAss Search engine page by paying placement fees, but I'd call it outrageous to see this kind of situation where one charity turns up when you tried to go to another.
Someone needs to help Doctors Without Borders out - and you folks have more combined clout that a casual and humble HTML coder like me ...
Here is the URL I got when I tried to go to the http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org address http://apps5.oingo.com/apps/domainpark/domainpark.cgi?client=netw8744&s=www.doctorswithoutborders.org
Thats just evil ...
I don't know if they are rated, but the UCC's International Relief Fund comes through a Christian Church with a history of caring about social justic issues and you can give your donation in another person's memory or honor. They'll even send a letter of acknowledgement to them. http://www.ucc.org/index2.html
lc, those are good points. Big organizations may be slow and inefficient. However, they may also have certain economies of scale -- administrative salaries and the like may actually be a smaller percentage of a big charity's total funds, if the same number of people are moving more money. It pays to examine the details.
Anonymous, when I go to http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org , I get redirected to this page, which says "Doctors Without Borders web site is experiencing very heavy traffic". Anyone know why anonymous's results differ?
Frank, I've added information on the Salvation Army. They don't report information to Charity Navigator, because they are a church. But they are reported to be very efficient; you'll have to consult the links and see whether you find the sources credible.
Lisa, thanks for posting; I can't find any watchdog or rating information on UCC.
lc - while it's true that smaller organisations might move faster in some situations, I personally give regularly to organisations like MSF *because* they're larger. The stocks of disaster supplies they have means that they're able to move very quickly to provide the resources that are needed - MSF is already moving the supplies in to establish a field hospital for thousands of people for a 3 month period. Personally I don't mind donating money that could be spent on the restocking of these supplies, because I know it's going to help continue the work that's already been started.
Hmmm - I just tried donating to the American Red Cross via the Amazon Honor System page, but my contribution was denied because apparently there's a $50 limit. Also, the page describing the Honor System says Amazon takes 2.9% + $0.30 of each transaction. Anyone know if that limit or that Amazon fee is being changed for use by the ARC?
Please get the word out to people looking at ways of making a difference by helping those effected. On-line donations may be made at: http://www.giveworld.org/tsunami.htm.
Thanks for posting this!
For thos who want to help out... I have added some Christian mission relief links to: www.heartformissions.net
Consider adding Christian Children's Fund. They have projects onsite throughout Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India, and have already mobilized emergency plans in response to the tsunami, hoping to reach 50000 children in Indonesia alone. They are widely recognized as experts in dealing with trauma faced by children in areas ravaged by national disasters and ongoing war. They received an A rating from the Am. Institute of Philanthropy, and spend over 80% of their funds directly on program services to children (and despite the name, serve children of every race and creed).
Phil, my impression is that Amazon is waiving that fee: "One hundred percent of your donation will go to the American Red Cross".
Heart For Missions, thanks for the additional links.
Christie, thanks, I have added CCF.
Re: GiveWorld, there is no watchdog information available from Charity Navigator, AIP or BB. However, their parent organization's 2003 Form 990 is online, which is an admirable degree of transparency. In 2003, GiveWorld started with $6,298.00 in assets, received $126,129.00 in revenues ($100K from one company), disbursed $4,445.00 in programs and spent $951.00 on management.
The good news: high transparency, lean administration, and a volunteer staff. The bad news: not much of a track record yet, perhaps?
However, looking deeper, I'm not sure if those numbers account for all donations made through GiveWorld to their partner NGOs? Basically, the model seems to be that GiveWorld screens grassroots NGOs in India, publishes a profile on each, breaks down what each donation will do, and requires the recipient NGOs to provide social-worker-case-report-like feedback on the results.
So it seems like it's potentially a lean, innovative model with an emphasis on transparency and accountability. It's not clear how much GiveWorld has in the way of resources for oversight of the recipient NGOs.
It's not clear how old GiveWorld is. Is this a start-up?
I'd like to suggest Americares be added to the list:
Charity Navigator rates them highly. They spend an astonishing 99.0% of their income on the people they're trying to help, and their CEO doesn't pull down $600K+ a year in salary like the CEO of the American Red Cross. They also have an online form that earmarks donations for South Asian Earthquake Relief
Thanks Mike, added Americares.
I just donated to Asha for Education -- I'm impressed with their transparency, their efficiency, the flurry of on-the-ground activity on their blog, their size (small enough to seem to me to be nimble, large enough to be stable as an enterprise), their usually long-term focus (and the speed at which they adapted to respond to this disaster), and their structure -- they seem to be principally composed of Indians, in America and Europe as well as in India, organized into small chapters which make donations directly to grassroots NGOs.
The fact that, in this case, many of the donors living in the first world share a language and culture with recipients in Third World poverty, strikes me as a very good example of leverage -- look at their internship FAQ for an example of what I mean -- they take it for granted that interns will speak an Indian language and have a local friend or family member to stay with -- so it sounds like we're talking about a constant flow of donor Indians from the US and Europe dropping in on the recipient grassroots NGOs to help out while on summer break, family vacations, etc -- a wonderfully low-cost and reliable mechanism for oversight, it seems to me.
They also seem to be entirely volunteer-run -- according to their income statement, in 2003 they spent only $21K on general and administrative expenses, of which they account for about $14K explicitly in categories like banking fees, postage and printing, and advertising. I like the idea that none of my donation is going towards salaries or office rental, and that the money is nonetheless going straight to on-the-ground NGOs without any intermediaries. The only people getting paid here are Indian social workers and the like, and my dollar goes a lot farher in Indian social worker salaries than it would in paying American charity CEOs, etc.
I may make a donation to one of the larger charities as well, however. The one drawback of Asha is that India, while hard hit, seems to have relatively more resources to deal with the problems than places like Indonesia, which is devastated, and Myanmar, which is not letting anyone even know that there is a problem. So I'm interested in what are the most effective ways to reach those places.
Thanks to everyone for posting with your suggestions.
Humanitarian Aid from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is distributed at 100%. See contribution guidelines at www.lds.org
The church is already well established in most of the hard hit areas, and is already distributing from their storehouses.
Their assistance is non-demoninational.
You're doing a fantastic job in providing information about making financial donations. Have you been able to find any information on how to offer assistance in caring for the orphaned children? e.g. fostering them?
The Lancet, perhaps the world's most presigious medical journal, published a very negative editorial about the Director of UNICEF recently:
"It is widely, if regrettably, accepted that UNICEF has lost its way during Carol Bellamy’s long term of office."
PayPal is now taking direct donatations for Unicef and waiving all their fees (I hope amazon waives their fees too). http://donations.paypal.com/
Did you hear that Bill Gates gave $3million out of his own foundation (not microsoft's money but his own) very nice move.
We've set up a website that makes it even easier for people to generate funds for the tsunami relief effort. Please check out http://www.ReliefSearch.org.
Very simply, when users click on search results generated from ReliefSearch.org, the site earns revenues on a pay-per-click basis. All click revenues generated from these searches will help fund the victims of the Earthquake/Tsunami disaster. People can continue performing searches on the web as they normally would, only proceeds from their activities on ReliefSearch.org will help the cause. So, we're encouraging users to use the ReliefSearch.org search engine instead of Google or Yahoo!
Our goal is 1 million searches in the next 30 days. Anything you can do to help spread the word about ReliefSearch.org will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much for your help!
The United States Fund for UNICEF "funnels" money to UNICEF becuase that is its mission. UNICEF does not receive money from the UN, so there are 38 national committees that raise money and awareness about its causes. You can research their efficiency by looking at their annual reports on their websites: unicef.org and unicefusa.org.
Carol Bellamy has come under fire for her work at unicef, mostly from those who oppose her interest in increasing the opportunites for girls because they see this as some kind of hidden "women's rights" agenda.
I know some people who are involved with Asha, and can vouch that they are very committed. However, they are limited to India. You should consider Islamic Relief Worldwide, www.irw.org, who currently has relief operations running (from before the disaster) in Sri Lanka and in Indonesia. They are rated 4 stars by charitynavigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/4438.htm), and over 90% of their funds go directly to programs to feed, clothe, and rehabilitate the poor.
Thanks for the information, clattun, John, John, lc, and mayes.
John, I don't know much about fostering orphans. There is reason to be cautious; the State Department has blocked adoptions: "the international standard in a crisis is to keep children as close to their family members as possible. It can be extremely difficult to determine whether children whose parents are missing are truly orphans."
UNICEF also advises caution: "In conflict and other emergency situations, UNICEF operates on the principle that no child should be adopted abroad unless it is firmly established that he or she has no parents, relatives or community members willing and able to care for the child."
Many affected areas lost disproportionately more children than adults -- there may be more parents who lost children in the tsunami, than children who lost parents. If local relatives can be provided with the resources to take care of the children, or local families can adopt them, those children may be much better off where they have a shared language, culture, religion, family, and where everyone around them has been through the same tragedy.
mayes, I did not mean to criticize United States Fund for UNICEF for channeling money to UNICEF -- obviously, that's their job. I wanted only to point out that comparing the expenses of different charities is not necessarily apples to apples: the Form 990 filed in the USA may not account for all the administrative expenses.
The UNICEF FAQ, however, does say the following: "When you make a donation to UNICEF, either on our website or by telephone (see above), you can choose to earmark your contribution for the tsunami relief effort or any other program. As each of UNICEF’s Country Offices have their own annual budget to cover their overhead costs, your donation can go solely to the relief effort."
Do you have any links to articles defending Carol Bellamy's administration of UNICEF? I'd love to offer any detailed opposing view.
Stop by www.gfa.org/tsunami. This Christian organization keeps their administrative costs separate from designated donations. So 100% of your gift goes to the disaster relief. GFA was the first group on the site.
Check out this article by Christian Examiner.
There is eternity.
You forgot Catholic Relief Services, which on December 30 announced a commitment of $25 million for emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation programs to assist people affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami. The amount represents one of the earliest and largest such commitments to date for the tsunami relief efforts. See www.catholicrelief.org
Added Catholic Relief Services, and a comment urging people to consider giving beyond just funds earmarked for the tsunami.
Since I mentioned giving to Asha, I should add that I also gave to Sarvodaya, for somewhat similar reasons: grassroots organization, local employees, involved in more than just disaster relief. I don't have much data on its efficiency, but in this case I'm swayed by my regard for Arthur C. Clarke -- surely this can be forgiven of a science fiction writer! :-)
well I thakkar Dniesh am a socialworker willing to work with the NGOwhich is working for the Tsunami Victims in south india and so leaving this message for those who can help me contact those NGOs willing to employ my kinda socialworkers who really want to work for the society.
I have worked in local NGO for a year and now i would like to head for fresh challenges in order to utilize my potentials for the benefit of society and myself too.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Thanking you in anticipation.
God Be with you and Tsunami Victims.
Great job, Mr Rosenbaum. It's a bit late in the day to say this, i know, but we were kinda snowed under at with the response to our blogs.
(Found you via Blogpulse's study on the Tsunami, in case you were wondering.)