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How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes

Stashed in: Leadership!, Awesome, Philanthropy!, Philanthropy, FAIL, @msquinn

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WTF Red Cross!??!

The main problems: Lack of expertise and not enough leadership.

So why did the Red Cross’ efforts fall so short? It wasn’t just that Haiti is a hard place to work. 

“They collected nearly half a billion dollars,” said a congressional staffer who helped oversee Haiti reconstruction. “But they had a problem. And the problem was that they had absolutely no expertise.”

Lee Malany was in charge of the Red Cross’ shelter program in Haiti starting in 2010. He remembers a meeting in Washington that fall where officials did not seem to have any idea how to spend millions of dollars set aside for housing. Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.


Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of expertise, but whether anybody was filling key jobs. An April 2012 organizational chart obtained by ProPublica and NPR lists 9 of 30 leadership positions in Haiti as vacant, including slots for experts on health and shelter.

The Red Cross said vacancies and turnover were inevitable because of “the security situation, separation from family for international staff, and the demanding nature of the work.”

But... people donate to the Red Cross precisely BECAUSE they believe that organization has the greatest institutional knowledge and leadership in responding to disasters!!!

Right, they were able to raise a bunch of money based on reputation with other efforts.

It turns out Haiti is more challenging than other efforts. 

Btw this article keeps getting retweeted. Latest by Felix Salmon and Megan Quinn:

Gotta love so many of the charitable organizations today, making you feel warm and fuzzy for giving, while padding their own pockets, donator beware:  

And Haiti has been known to be a place that receives so many donations, yet nothing ever changes.  I have friends that are nurses, and volunteered their time in a hospital for a week, they paid all their own expenses, as well as paying the agency $1,800 for the privilege of volunteering, and the hospital was definitely 3rd world standards, very primitive, limited equipment, make do with what you have, and they had a guard at the gate that wouldn't let patients in unless they could pay, what a racket! :(

Yeah, donors need to be very careful when they choose who to donate to.

If the Red Cross cannot be trusted then extra due diligence is neccessary for any philanthropy under consideration for donation.