As I’m sure that everyone is glued to their news feeds to see what is going on in Haiti, a double tragedy is occurring.
First, there is the appaling cost in human misery and suffering in this very poor country. You would be completely heartless not to be touched by the scenes of devastation and carnage that are emerging. Most compassionate people would be asking how they can help.
The second tragedy is that those very people are being hoodwinked and taken advantage of. When you are making donations to charities, be very careful to ensure that the money you are giving is actually going to help the cause that you are supporting. Too often, if you look underneath the covers, it is not.
There are many worthy charities that are doing good works around the world, but there are many that are not. Before you give, take a look at their web sites and see if there is any indication of how their funds are dispersed, and if there isn’t any quantifiable accounting, then go elsewhere.
Let me give you an example, and I’m sorry to say that this related directly to Haiti. The singer Wyclef Jean is a board member of a haitian charity called the Yele Haiti Foundation. This foundation has received funding from sources such as Angelina Jolie and is set to potentially receive a million dollars a day as people open up their hearts and purses to help Haiti.
I f you look at the IRS records for this organization, there is almost nothing that is going to the people of Haiti, instead the funds are being dispersed to for-profit organizations wholy or partially owned by Wyclef Jean or other board members or to promotion and PR costs.
If you want to take a look yourself, then go here http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2010/0114102wyclef1.html?link=rssfeed
This one example, while being current is unfortunately the tip of the iceberg as far as charities are concerned. With many, a very large percentage of their funding goes to promotional and or fund raising fees. I’ve seen it as high as 80%.
It is sad to say – but in charitable giving, caveat emptor is just as applicable as in buying a used car, and in many cases the used car is a better and more honest bet.