Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Haiti Crisis Prompts Fresh Talk of Pooling U.S. Relief Money - NYTimes.com
Before the earthquake, the American Red Cross had 15 people in Haiti working on projects like malaria prevention and measles vaccines. Partners in Health, a charity based in Boston, had more than 700 doctors and nurses among a staff of almost 5,000 operating a hospital and multiple clinics in the country.
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The Largest Disaster Fund-RaiserGraphic
The Largest Disaster Fund-Raiser
U.S. Will Reimburse Hospitals That Treat Haitians (February 2, 2010)
Case Stokes Haiti’s Fear for Children, and Itself (February 2, 2010)
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Andres Leighton/Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA-BOUND A 5-year-old tetanus victim was prepared for evacuation to Philadelphia for treatment arranged by the aid group Partners in Health.
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Talia Frenkel/American Red Cross, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
LINING UP FOR SUPPLIES Hundreds of Haitians waited on Jan. 20 in Port-au-Prince to receive relief supplies distributed by the American Red Cross.
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Jeff Kravitz/MTV Hope for Haiti, via Getty Images
A POOLED FUND An advisory board for Hope for Haiti Now, which was led by George Clooney, will decide how to spread donations among seven groups.
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Yana Paskova for The New York Times
A PRIVATE EVENT Tickets cost $50 each for a Jan. 28 fund-raiser in New York sponsored by Park Avenue Liquor and Davidoff, with net proceeds going to the American Red Cross.
Yet the Red Cross has raised nearly $200 million for its relief operations in Haiti, and Partners in Health about $40 million.
Disaster fund-raising rewards organizations for their marketing prowess and name recognition as much if not more than for the scope, relevance and quality of their emergency services.
Now, as the total giving for Haiti exceeds $560 million, relief workers and charitable groups are revisiting a fund-raising model — last seriously discussed after the 2004 Asian tsunami — to pool disaster donations across the United States and distribute them to organizations best placed to deliver relief.
The push to consider a new approach is being driven in part by relief groups that feel eclipsed by the Red Cross and frustrated at being frozen out financially right when their expertise could be best put to use.
“So often after these major disasters, marketing alone — divorced from the quality or importance of the work an organization is doing — will drive support,” said Thomas Tighe, chief executive of Direct Relief International, a group that provides medical supplies and equipment, and often shares with other groups the money it raises after major disasters.
Many donors also say after every major disaster that they lack the wherewithal to make informed decisions about which organizations to support and feel compelled to go to the Red Cross, which has one of the world’s strongest brands.
“I don’t mean that I don’t think the Red Cross has a purpose — it does,” said Bill Mitchell, who advises donor organizations about giving and supports exploring alternatives to the current system. “But the Red Cross’s reputation in the last eight years has been really checkered. Can they effectively use all of this money that they are raising?”
Small-scale versions of the sharing model are already in place. The recent Hope for Haiti telethon, which raised more than $66 million, used a pooled fund. An advisory board will decide how to spread the money among seven participating organizations, including the Red Cross and Unicef.
The State of Louisiana created the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, a pooled fund in response to Hurricane Katrina, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, recently set up by the White House and also a beneficiary of the telethon, is raising money to be parceled out to organizations working in Haiti.
But the only large-scale efforts to pool fund-raising across an entire country have occurred abroad, in places like Britain and Canada.
“It would be more complex to do in this country because of the much larger number of organizations and more fragmented media market, but I think it is an appealing concept,” said Peter Bell, the former chief executive of the American arm of CARE and a senior research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University.
The Red Cross, as the largest single fund-raiser after any major disaster in the past decade, stands to lose the most. Suzy DeFrancis, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the Red Cross was not categorically opposed to a pooled fund but had many concerns. She said the organization had incurred minimal expenses to raise money for Haiti.
“If you add another layer between the donor and the people who need the aid, does that eat up time? Does it add cost?” Ms. DeFrancis said. “Those are the concerns we would have because we want to get aid there as fast as possible.” If the past is any guide, advocates of a pooled approach face significant obstacles, even from some American nonprofit relief agencies that are affiliates of international organizations participating in pooled funds abroad.
“We’ve had lengthy discussions and negotiations around the concept of establishing a pooled fund, but it confronts a number of challenges here,” said Samuel A. Worthington, chief executive of InterAction, an umbrella organization representing 190 aid agencies, 82 of which are working in Haiti. “Will this increase or decrease the pool of resources? How will the resources be divided? Which organizations will be included in the pool? Who will make those decisions?”
Even in Britain, where the pooled approach has been used for decades, organizations consistently challenge decisions about the allocation of money.
“Most of my phone calls are people complaining,” said Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which distributes relief money in Britain. “We call it a robust dialogue.”
Founded in 1963, the committee mounts a single “appeal” that raises money to support relief services after a major disaster. It distributes the money to member organizations according to a formula calculated to ensure that it goes to those best placed to deliver effective and timely relief to people most in need.
The committee also accepts donations designated for specific members, but those typically account for a small part of the amounts raised, Mr. Gormley said.
It has 13 member organizations, including the British Red Cross and World Vision, and the committee is working on a plan to distribute more than $75 million raised so far for relief in Haiti. The money is distributed over 18 months or two years, which supports rebuilding efforts long after the cameras have moved on.
The model grew out of a similar effort in Canada and has been adopted in modified forms in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Mr. Gormley said that New Zealand and several Arab states in the Persian Gulf were considering similar funds.
Tony Pipa, a consultant who started the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, said the funds offered donors credibility and accountability. “Money is shared with different actors with different strengths and different experience on the ground in different places,” Mr. Pipa said.
The American Red Cross itself acted as a pooled fund after the Asian tsunami. It ended up passing on 46 percent of the roughly $581 million it raised to other organizations, like the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration, Ms. DeFrancis said. It has already committed $30 million to the World Food Program in Haiti.
Mr. Bell, the former CARE leader, said that example and others could serve as a template for a larger pooled program. But the effort would also require a significant shift in the competitive culture of relief agencies.
“You do see, in the response to the Haiti catastrophe and other recent disasters, some elements of joint fund-raising coming together,” Mr. Bell said. “But it is a very complex issue here, where organizations are programmed to compete for dollars.”
One Person Can Make A Difference Food for thought!
Sick competition without any thoughts about the victims!
Every organisation should think about whats most important for Haiti!