The GiveWell Blog

Haiti earthquake donations

Update: see our official page on Haiti earthquake relief, which consolidates advice from us and a few other sources we have high opinions of.

Reader Brigid writes:

    “I would love to hear any thoughts you have on contributions in light of the crisis in Haiti. My sense is that now of all times is when people give significantly without due diligence into a charity’s impact and that donor have more illusions than generally (i.e., My gift is going directly to a hurt Haitian). It seems inevitable the news piece several months after the event when donors are surprised/angry to learn their gifts were not used as they believed they were.
    Is there any way for an average donor to help the crisis in Haiti right now? Is there a way to “capture” the generosity that these events inspire while still focusing on impact? Specifically to GiveWell: would your team consider focusing quick efforts on analyzing charities that are addressing the crisis in Haiti (i.e. would you shift your mission at this moment)? Or, would you say: despite the current crisis in Haiti, any contribution an individual donor wants to make will still impact more people if, for example, given to fighting tuberculosis through Stop TB Partnership.”

A few notes:


  • Brigid on January 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm said:

    Thanks for answering my questions. It turns out that when I went to Partners in Health’s website, they have a Haiti Earthquake Relief fund established and that is where I chose to donate.

    You’ve presented a great case about the pitfalls of earmarking donations and I admit there’s no way for me to know how the HER fund will be disseminated compared to current PIH programs. But I’m at least confident enough in PIH as a whole that it’s ok if my individual gift ends up part of the larger pool of support for day-to-day operations. Not ideal, but ok.

    Definitely much harder to give up these donor illusions when the need is so emotionally compelling, as you put it.

  • Robert Robillard on January 14, 2010 at 8:19 am said:

    There is alot people can do and do it from the safety of their homes on the couch.

    donate to reputable humanitarian agencies. Here’s three off the top of my head.

    1. Catholic Relief Services
    2. American Red Cross
    3. Doctors Without Borders

    See a post I just wrote regarding this on my blog. ” A Concord Carpenter Comments.”

  • Harriet on January 14, 2010 at 8:42 am said:

    “Doctors Without Borders” is already on the ground and working. That is my choice for donations.
    Harriet Stonehorologe joumal

  • Sam Gardner on January 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm said:

    The National Red Cross societies are real civil society organisations often working with thousands of volunteers to be ready when disaster strikes. However, like every human organisation, they are not all saints and the quality of their work and dedication to high moral standards is not in all countries guaranteed. I don know the Haiti chapter, but if it is halfway decent, supporting them through the American red cross might be a good option.

  • Mahinda on January 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm said:

    I’m really disappointed that two readers have writen the “American Red Cross” on this page. The Givewell team have done their homework. Give to an organization that is already working in the area and proven sucess: PSI, PIH or Stop TB. They have the connections locally, understand the context and speak the language. (When was the last time you got given a present by a “friend” that wasn’t what you wanted…think how much harder it is for people to understand exactly what people need in an emergency who know nothing of the local context and can’t even speak the language).

    My experience with the “AMERICAN Red Cross” is that they ruin operations where they speak the language. In foreign countries they spend most of their money on cars and making foreign Staff feel comfortable. I’m sure that when the Givewell team gets a chance to review the organization, they’ll give them negative stars for taking so many peoples money that could have actual done some good had it been donated to another organization.

  • I, too, came to visit this blog to find out where I could donate to Haiti, hoping for some well-researched thoughts, and was glad to find them.

    I suppose the thing that is confusing about the Red Cross is that it is the number one recommendation of the White House when you visit their website. They are promoting donating via text message or directly. Is it because the Red Cross is the “brand” we expect to see in disaster response?

  • Tony Pipa on January 15, 2010 at 1:56 pm said:

    Sarah, keep in mind that the American Red Cross is a Congressionally chartered organization, not a 501(c)(3) organization. Thus the ARC actually has a formal connection to the US government. My guess is that this is the primary justification for the recommendation by the White House – there are provisions in their charter (recently amended in 2007) for oversight by appropriate Congressional committees.

    But I honestly think that government starts to go beyond their purview by making such recommendations. Here are some of my additional thoughts about how to improve giving during emergencies:

  • I would never donate to the Amirican Red Cross, there are much better donation website out there. For example:

    Haiti Earthquake Donations

    They promote a great organization!

  • Tony, thank you for your response, and the link you provided. Very helpful!

  • Rochelle on January 17, 2010 at 11:34 am said:

    Tony, the American Red Cross is a 501(c)(3) public charity.

  • Ian Turner on January 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm said:

    The American Red Cross is a Congressionally chartered instrumentality of the united states, and is also a 501 (c) (3) qualified organization. The two are not exclusive.

  • ARC is most definitely an organization whose volunteers are quick to respond and care about their work. I would guess that reading postings by Charity Navigator and other places that “evaluate” charities with differing criteria fails to see that in a HUGE disaster such as this, a huge response is needed and that and fast…that’s what the Red Cross can do…it is not about specific issues, but rather more general relief concerns.

  • patrick coady on January 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm said:

    I sent a donation to Yele Haiti, Probably in spite of all the negative publicity. I have yet to find any good or bad infor regarding teh organization. Can anyone provide feedback?

  • Holden on January 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm said:

    Patrick, some legitimate concerns have been raised about Yele.

    More generally – and this is addressed to other commenters on this post as well – do you have reasons for supporting other organizations that you feel are stronger than the (updated) reasons we’ve listed for our choice? If so, please share; if not, why give to those organizations?

Comments are closed.