Monday, March 21, 2011

Donate For The Next Crisis

I agree with Felix Salmon's "Don't Donate Money to Japan" post that everybody jumped on because of the headline. If there's something you can do to help people affected by the tsunami / nuclear meltdown in Japan, please do it! But donating more money probably isn't such an act.

The major bottleneck in well-publicized disaster scenarios usually isn't money. It's the ability to actually get stuff to the people who need it. In Japan, the government is going to be the group on the scene with the most logistical resources, and it's better funded than any relief organization. While relief groups usually have a larger role to play in third world countries whose governments can't do very much, Japan isn't a country of that kind. GiveWell says, "At this time, we believe that the relief and recovery effort does not have what we call "room for more funding," i.e., donations are not likely to improve the effort."

What GiveWell suggests is giving money to Doctors Without Borders (Felix gave $400), since they're excellent at dealing with the next catastrophe, and the one after that. I've given them a fair amount of money myself over the past few years, particularly on the advice of some people who'd been to disaster areas or other places where humanitarian aid was being offered. The consensus is that they do a good job.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Donate to Japan or donate locally. I like Nourishing NYC at http://www.nourishingnyc.org . They feed, educate and advocate for those most in need in NYC. Check ‘em out.

low-tech cyclist said...

Agreed about the pointlessness of donating to help Japan. Even to the extent that relief organizations can help in ways that the government can't get to right away, they're likely to be flooded with money.

Kinda like after 9/11, when everybody gave money to the Red Cross and all, but there was really nothing for that money to do.

And as a cherry on top, apparently the Red Cross had had a history of raising money for Disaster X, and using it for other purposes - understandably to some extent, when you can raise more money with a Disaster X appeal than you can use in any reasonable way to aid its victims - but donors who thought they were giving money to be used for Disaster X relief felt swindled, and 9/11 is when it caught up with the Red Cross. So they wound up giving money to people who basically didn't need a cent, but who were affected in some trivial way by their proximity to the WTC.