David R. Henderson  

How to Give to Haiti?

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I'm convinced that I want to give money to help people in Haiti. I haven't done so yet because I haven't found the right charity. Tyler Cowen has suggested two but I was underwhelmed by his suggestions. Some have said that Salvation Army > Red Cross. I want to do it this week. Suggestions please plus (short) reasons.

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CATEGORIES: Income Distribution

COMMENTS (29 to date)
Gavin Andresen writes:

I gave money to Doctors Without Borders (aka Médecins Sans Frontières) today via Non-Believers Giving Aid.

Reason: I'm guessing they'll address the most critical, immediate needs. And they speak French.

pj king writes:

Might I suggest www.shelterbox.org.

This is run by volunteers, is privately owned and managed, has very low overheads and is backed by a world wide organization with a history of getting things done. Shelterbox has showed its mettle recently in Samoa and in very many other disaster areas around the world.

Ben writes:

I gave to www.hashaiti.org -- worked on an outpatient referral system for them and they have been doing wonderful on the ground work for over 50 years.

bryan writes:

What's wrong with PIH? Their medical facilities in Haiti weren't damaged much by the earthquake (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/opinion/14kidder.html) so they're up and running. They're also pretty efficient:

A list of some organizations helping out in Haiti:

Adam writes:

I believe people have both spiritual and physical needs, especially during a crisis like the Haitian earthquake and its aftermath. The Salvation Army is seeks to attend to both the spiritual and natural needs of those it serves. In addition, SA is an international group with the organization and resources to be effective in a large scale disaster. Hence, I am comfortable placing my contributions in the trust of SA.

Jim Ancona writes:

What's your objection to Partners in Health (one of Tyler's recommendations)? They've worked in Haiti for many years and according to independent observers they do it pretty well.

HJ writes:

SOIL. I know the women on the ground. They will apply 100% to those who need it.

Bill writes:

At a friend's suggestion (he's had numerous experiences with this charity), I gave to Food for the Poor.

michael writes:

Just look up a random address in Haiti and put cash in the mail. Someone over there will get it.

pushmedia1 writes:

Catholic Relief Services. They were in-country (with 300 staff) before the earthquake and they have a big staff in the DR so they can hit the ground running. Also, an overwhelming majority of Haitians are Catholic so the relationships already exist.

Saloner writes:

I wonder if it would be possible, by getting interested people together online, to raise money and mount a lobbying effort targeted at opening the gates for Haitians and lowering barriers against Haitian imports, even if only via a temporary (tough I back a permanent) window.
Any lobbyists willing to take this up pro-bono?

ThomasL writes:

I'm a big fan of the Salvation Army. I prefer it to Red Cross, but I'm sure they are both out there doing good.

Eric H writes:

Tom Palmer recommends the MercyCorps page Van Libete / Vent de Liberte. Mercy

Eric H writes:

MercyCorps' mission statement was attractive:

"No one is more motivated or better equipped to create change than the person whose life and future is at stake."

This kind of decentralized approach caught my eye.

Matt writes:

David, if and when you find a really good charity, could you please put a post up supporting it and give reasons why. I am cynical and poor (undergraduate) so I am only going to give to a charity that is convenient to believe in. But I do want to give.

Mark writes:

I second the suggestion of Catholic Relief Services. They already had 300+ staff present at the time of the quake and have been established there for the past 50 or so years.

SydB writes:

"if and when you find a really good charity, could you please put a post up supporting it and give reasons why."


David R. Henderson writes:

Thanks, all. The fact that Tom Palmer recommended Vente de Liberte was the deciding factor. Generally, he pays a lot of attention to these kinds of international organizations. So I don't vouch that it's a good charity, but Tom Palmer does and, given the cost of getting more information, that's enough for me. So that's whom I've donated to.

Dan writes:

Do Haitians need money or goods? Not really. At this moment the healthy need the essentials of life: water, food & hope. The injured need that and medical care.

There are worse things one can do then make a token contribution. But there is so much better that can be done. #1 is to promote a culture of self-reliance. #2 is to work towards changing the paradigm of how Haiti is governed. What agencies are working with these objectives in mind?

So much of "charity" as practiced in the Western Cultures seems centered on activity that satisfies the needs of the giver. We too easily accept symbolism over substance. Should it not be the other way around?

To their credit there are many brave people who are truly giving to the nation of Haiti. I thank them. Perhaps a contribution that sustains their efforts will make the greatest difference now.

Ryan writes:

LDS Philanthropies--The LDS Church pays all overhead, so 100% of your donation goes to emergency relief. LDS.org

Robert Wiblin writes:

Don't, give it to someone else:


Some suggestions here:


Kurbla writes:

I used Red Cross.

You have interesting topic for following months - the reaction of governments vs non-profit organizations vs for-profit organizations vs private individuals.

Kurbla writes:

I forgot short reason - tradition and reputation, surprisingly few affairs, political and religious neutrality.

Lauren writes:

Hi, David.

Here's a slightly different twist for your question. You say:

I want to do it this week.
Why do it now? Why not wait to see how things shake out over the course of the next few weeks or months?

There does seem to have been an immediate and substantial outpouring of financial aid, both by governments and individuals. I'd be surprised to hear that it is used up already, committed to clear projects, or that there is even any immediate urgency for more at the moment. Putting to good use the financial resources is probably almost as temporarily stymied as with the physical resources.

If you truly are committed, why not wait a few weeks or months till the inflow of financial aid slacks off and send it then?

There is a natural and wonderful instinct to want to offer help to the desperate immediately. That is when we feel most helpless and most compassionate. But is the help we offer in that moment to assuage our own empathies or actually providing immediate help?

I hate to be a curmudgeon; but in addition to being incredibly grateful for all the governments and legitimate agencies that have leapt in--on the spot providing true relief as well as they could given the extent of the disaster and infrastructural handicaps--I'm a bit troubled somewhere in the back of my mind by agencies' and governments' collecting large caches of aid money. Every government and every private agency that has leapt in has its own reasons. That's a good thing! Those incentives are what matter, what make the competitive process work to accomplish humanitarian goals in such dire times. But there is a power vacuum in Haiti that is going to get filled by hook or by crook. It worries me that it will be filled by new rent-seekers replacing the existing rent-seeking Haitian government. Unless I can give millions, I probably cannot influence the way that pans out even at the margins.

I, too, want to give money to Haiti and its desperate populace. And I probably will give through a private agency. But if I truly want to give to the people of Haiti, my choice is to take the responsibility to shephard my desire and compassion so that they last a few months and are not distracted by other disasters that may happen or other desires for charitable uses of my money. And by waiting, I'll also be able to glean more information about which agencies are using money--and the power they've acquired by having it--wisely.

David R. Henderson writes:

Dear Lauren,
All good points, but too late. I did the contribution last night.
P.S. Maybe, though, once we see which ones are doing good things, I'll give more.

Mike writes:

I gave to http://www.HeartswithHaiti.org. I assume that Red Cross, Salvation Army, Doctors Without Borders, Catholic Relief, etc. are all relatively well-funded through large-scale donations and corporate matches.

Hearts with Haiti is one of many local charities that have been devastated and desperately need funds. This particular charity provides room, board, and education for orphans and handicapped children. The people in charge are capable and honest.

Adam writes:

David--Please don't keep us guessing. To what organization did you contribute?

Steve Spiller writes:

Rotary International, with 1.2 million members in over 200 countries and geographical areas around the world, has proven time and time again that its has the means, manpower and stewardship to deliver help to people in need. It was Rotary through its ShelterBox program that was one of the first on the ground in Haiti. And appropriately, the Haitian government chose one of its Rotarians to be in charge of aid efforts.

Tom Walls writes:

I saw that my fundraising page Van Libete (Vent de Liberte) was mentioned here. Yes, my friend Tom Palmer encouraged the relief org Mercy Corps and I set up a page to collect donations.

I did not do much other than set up the page, make the logo and spread the word. Of course, it is for friends of liberty, but everyone is welcome to help out.

Thanks for helping! Mesi Boukou!


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