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Opinion: Why Hope for Haiti gets my support

By Laurel Busch

If I were Brangelina, I’d give a million dollars to help Haiti, too. However, I still believe my modest contribution will make a difference when it’s pooled with others and when the organization that receives it buys crucial supplies locally and/or in bulk.

Just as I try to get as much as I can for my money when I buy things, I want to have as much of an impact as possible when I donate money. That’s why I visited Charity Navigator the day after the Haiti earthquake to research which non-profit organization would use my donation most efficiently.

Charity Navigator already had a link to a list of non-profits providing relief in Haiti. The site rates charities by efficiency and capacity, and this list contains only the ones with the best ratings (three and four stars).

Browsing through the list is an eye opener. Among the four-star groups, the charities spend from 64 percent to 99 percent of income directly on their programs. The rest is spent on administration and fundraising.

“Leadership” salaries are interesting, too. Spot checking major organizations, I found $397,000 for the CEO of CARE plus $431,000 for its senior vice president of programs, almost $368,000 for the president of Oxfam USA and almost $360,000 for the president of Save the Children.

The American Red Cross, by the way, is not in the four-star group; it has a three-star rating. It spends 90.1 percent of its fund on its programs, and its president and CEO salary is $565,000.

Charities such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Relief Services are not rated because Charity Navigator bases its ratings on IRS filings and religious organizations do not have to file the specific form that is used.

While browsing through the list, I paused at International Relief Teams, which spends 99 percent of its income directly on its work. (Its founder and CEO makes $86,000.) Its Web site says it was deploying a team to Haiti yesterday and planned to work with Haitians it had worked with before on disaster relief and development activities.

I liked the idea of working with Haitians instead of just swooping in, doing something outsiders think will be helpful and leaving. I started looking for other groups that were dedicated to the country before the earthquake hit and found Hope for Haiti. It already had nutrition, healthcare and nutrition programs in the country; it provides education to 14,000 children in 45 schools (at least it did before the earthquake). It spends 98.2 percent of its expenses on its programs and pays its executive director $53,125.

Its philosophy is what convinced me this was the right group: “The long term success of our mission will only occur if the people of Haiti are the ones who take control of their future. We therefore believe in partnering with those in Haiti who are doing an excellent job and supporting them in furthering their work.” I like that a lot.

When I visited Hope for Haiti’s site, I saw that GoDaddy had reached the same conclusion and had already sent it $500,000. I almost decided it wouldn’t need my money now, but that wouldn’t be fair.

I’ve been following Hope for Haiti on Twitter, and it’s gratifying to know what it’s doing now. A tweet this morning gives a link to a Naples, Florida, newspaper article that says the group’s medical team arrived in Port-au-Prince yesterday and was at work within an hour. With the group’s existing programs, GoDaddy’s half million, and lots of small contributions like mine, Hope for Haiti should have a good start on helping the country rebuild. It’s good to be a tiny part of it.