It’s not something you see every day, especially in the wake of a natural disaster: a nonprofit organization turning away donations.
But there it was, on the Doctors Without Borders, USA/Médecins Sans Frontières Web site:
“We have received an extraordinary outpouring of support for the people of South Asia and we are extremely grateful. … As you know, it is very important to MSF that we use your contribution as you intend it to be used. MSF estimates that we have received sufficient funds for our currently unforeseen emergency response in South Asia. … We kindly request that you contribute to our general Emergency Relief Fund, which is enabling our quick response to the current disaster in South Asia as well as humanitarian needs in war-torn Darfur, Sudan, and elsewhere in the more than 70 countries where MSF is working around the world. …”
For its part, MSF raised more than $20 million to help tsunami victims, $16 million of which was contributed via the Internet. Worldwide, the organizational network raised more than $117 million. By as early as Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004 — three days after the earthquake and resulting tsunamis devastated South Asia — MSF had, in effect, raised the funds needed to deploy more than 200 international-aid workers and 2,000 metric tons of relief materials to the ravaged area.
Ultimately, MSF’s prudent decision to cap funding for relief efforts drew hasty criticism from the media, which predicted the stance would undercut an unprecedented wave of private giving to provide relief for the region. (In all, more than $750 million had been donated to American charities helping the tsunami victims at press time.)
But according to Alyssa Herman, director of development for the U.S. section of MSF, the overarching goal was to respect donors’ intent, not to discourage giving.