Please, Don’t Give Money To Haiti

Let me rephrase that: Don’t donate to a charity and restrict the funds to Haiti.

That sounds harsh, but it isn’t.

When you give to a charity, you can usually designate or restrict the funds for a specific need. If you go the Red Cross website and donate, the first page presents you with a list of areas to restrict your money to. Things like “International Response Fund”, or “Haiti Relief and Development”, or “Your Local Red Cross Chapter”. All of these areas are worthy, but restricting your donation might over-complicate your gift and potentially creates difficulties.

When you donate and restrict your funds, a charity is bound to spend the money in that way. So if you give money for Haiti, it must go to Haiti. Here’s an explanation of restricted giving, and here is a plea against it.

The last thing you want is for there to be no good way to spend your money, because of various logistical difficulties, while people in other areas can’t get help.

But the charities’ are mendacious, and will use my unrestricted donation for yachts and strip clubs!

Oh, please.

The point of picking a charity is to get the funds to the place with the most need. Part of what you do when you donate to a charity is you hire them for their expertise in two areas:

  • Where is the need greatest?
  • How can they stretch your dollar the farthest?

That is what you are buying, as a “customer” of a charity.

If that is what you are buying, then it stands to reason you should do your homework. Head over to a charity rating site (Charity Navigator is the one I use) and evaluate your charity. Look for one with a good rating, with reasonable overhead costs, timely public filings, etc. Pick one with a track record, whatever strikes you as useful. Big or small, people who are in need don’t care. Spend at least as much time picking a charity as you do a new pair of shoes, or waiting in line for the new iPhone.

So do your homework. Donate, if you can. $1. $5. Whatever. If you want to give money to the Red Cross, go for it. But if you can, give it to their “Where The Need Is Greatest” fund — and then trust them to do their job. If you don’t want to give a charity unrestricted funds — don’t give to that charity at all. Find another one. There are lots of good charities. There is ample hurt in the world. Every reputable charity helps people.

So don’t just give money to Haiti. Give money to charitable aid organizations, and trust them to do their job.

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