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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Haiti Crisis

The Haiti Crisis
If you’re like me, you want to contribute to help those in need in Haiti.  The Haitian earthquake created a disaster almost beyond words.  It’s so vast and the situation is so desperate, it’s hard to understand what to do or who to contribute to.

I’m going to make a suggestion.  I’m in the fundraising business, but I don’t have any relief clients who are working in Haiti.  I don’t have an axe to grind and I certainly don’t have a conflict of interest.  I believe I do, however, know some good guidelines for choosing which nonprofit to give your gift to.

In my opinion the best groups to give to are the small charities that have a minimum of overhead and have a very defined program to assist Haitians in their recovery efforts.  And if they already have a track record of working in Haiti, that’s even better.  There are a number of groups that meet the preceding criteria.

I have learned over the years that very large charities operate like very large corporations.  They have a vast bureaucracy and one of their primary goals is to protect their turf.  Whether their mission has to do with natural disasters or health or general welfare, protecting their turf too often takes precedence over their stated objectives.  Some even maintain a large number of in-house lawyers to not only lobby Congress for earmarks and grants, but also take measures to make it difficult for new groups to enter the marketplace.  Like giant corporations, giant charities often use government to squeeze out competition so that they can have a monopoly on raising funds for their cause.

That’s why my wife, Kathi, and I have sent a donation to a small but effective group that was already working in Haiti before the earthquake occurred.  The group is Agape Flights ( located in Venice, Florida.  Agape is now in an emergency mode.  They have the right contacts and know what needs to be done.  They have solved the dilemma of getting supplies to those in need by utilizing a ship to provide urgently needed supplies and by using helicopters to reach into remote areas.

Our good friend, Don Kerndt, who, together with his wife, Sue, used to live in our neighborhood, works at Agape as their Chief Financial Officer on a completely pro bono basis.  I personally toured Agape the last time we visited Don and Sue and I can tell you it is a very focused and very efficiently run organization.

If you decide to contribute through Agape [a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt foundation] you can designate your gift directly for the Haitian Earthquake relief and you can be confident that your dollars will be spent wisely and effectively.

But most important of all, please keep the people of Haiti and all the relief workers in your prayers.  Through prayer, mountains can be moved.  And that’s exactly what needs to happen in Haiti.

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