You Don't Have to Be Big to be Accountable
In the days following the tragic Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, I appeared on television and radio nationwide, offering advice to compassionate, yet skeptical Americans about how they could find a charity that would spend their generous donations wisely. From Good Morning America to Geraldo, I offered the same basic advice to donors: “Stick with the large, well-known, long-established charities.”
I told everyone who would listen that after a disaster, when aid is urgently needed and time is of the essence, donors should not be unnecessarily adventurous with their giving. I advised donors to stick with large, national and international charities — organizations that have experienced people on the ground in the affected areas, are accountable to well-connected and image-concerned Boards of Directors in the United States, and have a sufficient infrastructure in place to ensure the aid truly reaches the victims.
While I still think this advice holds true during a crisis when there are immediate needs and where many donors are often inexperienced, I also recognize that many small or recently established organizations exist that could also help, if given the chance. In the wake of the tsunami disaster, many small, local and innovative organizations are searching for ways to show that they use donations efficiently and deliver programs effectively.
Although tsunami giving by Americans will reach $1 billion in 2005, this represents only a fraction of the total $250 billion Americans will give to charity this year. Most Americans will give locally and most will give to smaller charities. For these small, local or new organizations seeking to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility and value to the community, I offer the following advice:
Many of the visitors to our Web site in the days after the tsunami were seeking information about the largest and best-known charities in the world, such as the Red Cross, World Vision and Save The Children. These were first-time donors who wanted to help but were skeptical, even of well-known organizations.