News & CommentaryArchive
Jan 22, 2010
Will Donor Advice Do Any Good?
Update: I’ll be on Science Friday with Ira Flatow (NPR) at 2pm today, Jan. 22nd, discussing giving to Haiti and donor advice.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see a steady flow of high quality advice for donors responding to the Haitian earthquake. The New York Times profiled the efforts of two intrepid bloggers, Alanna Shaikh and Saundra Schimmelpfennig. Part of Ms. Schimmelpfennig’s effort has been to compile good advice from others, in addition to her own expertise, from around the world (if you haven’t seen the comprehensive advice compiled by Ms. Schimmelpfenning at Good Intentions Are Not Enough, it is highly recommended). Still, even she, I don’t think, has been able to keep track of all the advice columns and stories.
As I see more and more of these stories appear, I’ve begun to wonder: how will we know if this proliferation of good advice has had an impact on the Haitian relief and recovery effort? What metrics will tell us that donors to Haiti and the nonprofits working there learned the lessons of the tsunami, Katrina, and Nargis? I have a few ideas:
* the ratio of gifts-in-kind to cash donations is significantly lower
* the amount of money given to disaster relief organizations that is earmarked for Haiti is lower
* the percentage of funds given to organization that didn’t already have a long-term presence in Haiti is lower
* the percentage of funds given to disaster relief organizations (as opposed to long-term development organizations) is lower
* the number of “mission” trips to perform unskilled labor to “help” Haitians decreases dramatically
* giving to Haiti shows a “long tail”—in other words donations don’t abruptly fall off after the immediate crisis is over and donors give to recovery efforts for months into the future
Of course, all of these are comparative metrics. I’ve never seen the figures for other disasters which would make-up the baseline for such comparisons. Perhaps they are out there.
What other metrics should we be looking at to assess the impact of donor advice? Have you seen any data on these issues from prior disasters?
I’ll confess I’ve even begun to wonder if there is too much advice from too many sources out there. Would the message be heard more clearly if it was coming from so many places, and with so many variations, at once?