Thursday, January 28, 2010

Changing Tide?

The general consensus appears to be that the philanthropic response to the Haiti earthquake disaster shows donors no longer just want to give, but they want to give smart. Traditional media have responded to donors' desires for more information about their investments and the donors themselves have found their way to the non-traditional medium (see comments section) of blogs.

However, saying this disaster reflects a change in donors' behavior ignores the fact that disaster relief is one of the worst things to donate to. Donors gave in response to the devastation the earthquake caused, but the devastation could have be lessened by preventative investments. If donors actually thought about the full cycle of their investments, they would have supported development organizations in Haiti, ranked 157th among countries by GDP per capita, before a major disaster knocked them back even further.

Of course, that assertion above ignores the fact that a major disaster is an incredible, globally emotional time and people can't help but give. (Not to mention all the capital needed to rebuild.) I gave, my family gave, my friends gave, my co-workers gave. I hope you gave too. (Or will.) But, when giving, don't give: invest, especially if it's in response to an overwhelming emotional pull to help.

I encouraged everyone who asked my advice to give to Partners in Health. They've been in Haiti for a long time and they will continue to be there after the recovery is over and national attention as shifted. This long-term investment is what's needed for any sort of improvement. If you have given, consider staying involved in your organization regardless of how much thought you put in the decision, or at least, remain aware about the Haitian reconstruction efforts.

I'm not sure how this demand and supply for good donor information surrounding Haiti will translate into results or if it will remain when people consider their yearly donations. But I hope the tide has actually changed.

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