Most of my readers by now have likely made at least one donation to the Haitian relief efforts, help that is urgently needed. Many intermediaries have created compilations of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with pre-earthquake operations in Haiti, my preference because they will have existing local knowledge and relationships to aid their own effectiveness.
Conversation has already turned to the question of a long-term solution, with a spicy kick-off from columnist David Brooks in the NYT comparing the Haitian earthquake to a San Franciscan one and asserting that this is “not a natural disaster story but a poverty story.” If Haiti were not so poor, the infrastructure would not be so shoddy and the resulting negative impact from the quake not so deadly.
Brooks goes on to suggest that in addition to financial issues Haiti’s development is retarded by “a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences”. This is the spice that is now drawing many scoffers who suggest we consider instead foreign policy towards Haiti and debt reparations paid to the French for decades.
The area of agreement is that attention and aid need to focus on the long term. Philanthropy Northwest referenced an article by Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors with advice on focusing on a mid-to-long-term strategy and positing a list of preferred non-profit providers. Community Investment folks via the Social Investment Forum have pulled together a list of microfinance organizations, loan funds and a few other financial institutions with an existing track record in Haiti where you can make social impact investments to support the rebuilding effort.
There’s been a movement afoot for some time in philanthropy to let go of focusing on administrative costs for deciding whether or not a non-profit is well run, and instead look for impact or effectiveness measures. Unfortunately while those are more difficult to come by, this article talks about looking for transparency, accountability and clear needs assessment instead. Specifically for Haiti, Tim Ogden of Philanthropy Actionsuggests we’ll know we’ve learned from prior disasters if donations this time are NOT specifically earmarked but DO emphasize organizations with pre-existing operations in Haiti. Further, people emphasize giving cash to those experts instead of the DIY approaches of sending in-kind donations or trying to volunteer in person. Finally, there is a long-tail of giving and donors fund long-term development and not just disaster relief.