Misdirected charity?

September 3, 2017

there is an excellent segment in today's CBS News Sunday Morning show concerning sensible vs emotional donations. It has been a huge pet peeve of mine to give for the sake of giving w/o any thought to actual usefulness. Examples:

Sandy Hook massacre. 67,000 teddy bears, what in the world for?

sunami relief efforts. High heels, prom dresses and winter coats in tropical disaster areas, really?

cash seems so cold but during Harvey, it will buy flashlights, wheelbarrows, water testing kits, and truly practical Items.

thank you for caring but please don't confuse emptying your attic as the way to help those in distress.

Granny used to say that one s/b grateful and not look a gift horse in the mouth but in the 21st century, sobering reminders BEFORE engaging in misplaced charity are a must.

Comments (44)

  • susanzone5 (NY)

    I read that people don't need clothes, quilts, etc. right now. The best donation is money to the Red Cross. They use the money for disaster relief. Later when people are resettled and have cleaned up, then you can send clothes and quilts. Now, that stuff is an inconvenience for storage and people-power sorting it. Most of it would go in the trash (as much as you don't want to hear that.)

  • chisue

    Please don't send 'stuff'. It's a waste of time and resources. Most of it will become yet more landfill. Send money to the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations. They can order fresh, clean items in bulk and deliver what's needed, as it's needed.

  • eld6161

    So true. We need to really listen to what is needed and when it is needed.

  • marilyn_c

    So many people have offered to send me pet food. The animal shelters sent me a load day before yesterday. The problem is, I have no where to put it. I gave 90% of it away, which was nice to help people, but now they have another load for me and I am running out of people to give it to.

  • irma

    Thank you for this very sage advice.

    Marilyn, so very glad to hear you are making progress. Hope you will give an update on your critters when you have some time. I know there are bits and pieces in different threads but I tend to get confused.

  • adellabedella_usa

    My son has been volunteering for a few days. I asked him about the donations. He said he saw one or two dingy looking pillows, but everything else appeared to be nice.

    I walked through a donation center yesterday. The food was neatly organized and labeled. I was a bit surprised to see a container labeled 'gluten free'. A local company was donating coconut water which I found a bit odd, but maybe that's just because I don't use it. It may be more in demand than I know.

    Some of the earliest shelters had to turn away food and volunteers because they can't use them yet. As the people are allowed to go back to their houses and clean up, I've seen additional requests for supplies. A lot of cleaning supplies, gloves and face masks have been requested, but the local stores were out. Today, I saw that one place had distributed food and was finally running out.

  • artemis_ma

    Regards Sandy Hook. I live one town over, and went to help the donation center deal with all those gifts as a volunteer. I'm not surprised if they got 67K teddy bears. I was in that room depicted in the article. They got a ton of (expensive) American Girl dolls, as well. I had to help sort through all that useless c***, too. I understand peoples' hearts were in the right place, but. Unless you are near and KNOW what a place needs in the way of physical donations, and can know these physical donations can get there logistically, send money. If later on you live close enough, perhaps you can donate physical labor. BUT work with them. Which is why I did what I could in person, because I could, and checked out the LOCAL places needing help. The extra stuff gets in the way. Seriously.

  • lgmd_gaz

    The logistics of distributing all the well meaning donated goods to the places/people where it is needed has to be an overwhelming task at best. I have always felt that money plus the physical presence of hands on help is the best way to help in disasters like this. I was glad to see the CBS Sunday Morning show address this today.

  • bossyvossy

    It really applies to many situations. A neighbor's husband passed away and the outpouring of love via meals was so overwhelming that she was mortified about eventually having to toss food for lack of space + more than her family could consume. Sparsing thoughtfulness over a period of time much more helpful. Like a monthly fruit basket for a year, etc.

  • H B

    I would love to see an update on the Red Cross. Apparently after Katrina, and Haiti their ability to address large scale disasters was revealed to be less than successful, and their strength lies in smaller disasters (local fires, etc.) and their overhead historically has been , like 25% administrative. Additionally I've heard (and may be totally wrong) that their strength is in the immediate aftermath, whereas I can imagine for many people, needs will be ongoing for a long time, and help will be needed to reconstruct homes, apply for aid, etc. It would be great to know of other groups in the Houston area with the local knowledge and resources to truly provide relief.

  • bossyvossy

    Adellabella, the reason your son didn't see any crappy useless stuff was b/c there is a silent army behind the scene who sort stuff b4 distribution. The rags (defined as an article of clothing you would not wear yourself for a variety of reasons) are saved for industries that use it in their manufacturing process. But just b/c you don't want stuff going to landfill, doesn't mean it can be converted to charitable donation.

  • adellabedella_usa

    Bossyvossy, this particular location was the point where it was being dropped off. You are correct that there are people who are realizing a lot of donations are useless. There have been several comments made in the requests for help. I think more people, at least locally, are taking notice.

  • bossyvossy

    I would not DARE pass harsh judgement against Red Cross. So what if not 100% successful. Those guys are in the middle of the stinking mess and my contribution is a wire transfer in the comfort of an a/c room.

  • donna_loomis

    Nothing so serious as a natural disaster, but..... My daughter runs a dress giveaway for girls who can't afford a dress for their prom. Most donations are great, some even still have tags on them. But some people obviously just don't want to fill their trash cans and think that someone "in need" should be happy with what they get. This one just blew me away.

  • H B

    I didn't mean to sound harsh on the res cross. Historically and currently they have provided relief, support and a lifeline for many. However my dollars are limited, and I don't expect the Red Cross to be everything for everyone. Reading articles about the extent of the damage and anticipating that needs will stretch on for years (like with Katrina), I would also like to know about organizations that help with rebuilding efforts and longer term supports. I have heard habitat for humanity has been very helpful longer term for rebuilding.

  • ingeorgia

    Please give to the Salvation Army. They make sure the money goes where it needs to and not to big salaries or overhead.

  • H B

    So here's a paper from the Red Cross after 2005 recognizing that natural disasters had given them an opportunity to improve

    and here's one from NPR this week explaining that the Red Cross cannot tell you what percentage of your donation will go to Harvey relief

    this gentleman was not able to respond to NPR on the financials (said it was not in his job scope) but one wOuld hope that with ten years plus to work on it, it's an important metric to know to be as effective as possible and as transparent as possible with donors. Without question the Red Cross puts many millions of dollars towards relief, but if they are much less efficient (in this event) than other entities, I'd like as much of my dollars to go to actual relief (as opposed to administration, fundraising, etc.) as possible.

  • adellabedella_usa

    Donna, I'm not sure I would flame the person who donated that dress. A prom dress is a specialty item. The usefulness of that dress would depend on if it could be altered or repaired. That looks like it down close to the bottom hem. A hem is often altered on a prom dress. Without looking at the condition of the entire dress to see that the rest is in good condition, my guess is the person donating the dress thinking that part would be cut off and and hemmed or strategically altered.

  • bossyvossy

    @ Donna-Loomis, exactly!

    another benefit of money is purchasing power. Once during some local calamity, we took dog food to a needy shelter. The volunteer was friendly and chatty and during conversation he confided that sometimes they don't have room for the gazillion bags people bring, plus they can buy wholesale and get up to 60% more food per $ vs what us as well meaning donors contribute by buying a bag at retail prices.

    PS: not for a moment suggesting that clicking the PayPal button is all it takes, but in times of pandemonium, much more efficient.

  • adellabedella_usa

    The Houston Mayor and other local officials have recommended Volunteer Houston. I know you have to register and I'm not sure where all everything goes. They are suggesting people use this to coordinate the efforts coming into the area.

  • artemis_ma

    To Ingeorgia: I do not give to the Salvation Army because they send moneys to prevent gay marriage. I have friends who are gay, and are married. Your mileage may vary, no problem, but it is my personal choice here.

  • bossyvossy

    I can't remember name of organization that rates charities in terms of how much goes directly to victims vs admin, fund raising, etc. someone will hopefully post. But for those who think admin. Expenses are wasteful, you can go to your utility company and contribute to their fund for those who can't pay. It goes 100% to the needy. Personally, I'm not against admin. If a bunch of little church ladies don't know about computers and they want to hire somebody to manage finances, I'm totally ok with that.

  • bossyvossy

    The ways to help are LIMITLESS. My postal carrier just delivered my mail. He had a holiday but told me he donated his Sunday to deliver mail. Superb!

  • bossyvossy thanked donna_loomis
  • pudgeder

    I prefer to donate to Samaritan's Purse. You can donate using Paypal.

    They have a high rating by Charity Navigator.

    Samaritan's Purse.

  • bossyvossy

    One of our neighbors is getting bottles for testing well water. Each of us will collect samples and she will in turn collect bottles and take them to testing lab. Just like that, she's helping 30-40 families.

    Sorry adellabella, but torn dress , while not an evil donation, doesn't show much compassion or urge to serve. can't we do better? It assumes girl in need has a sewing machine or money to send to alterations. Perhaps fixing it before donating would make for a more meaningful donation. If somebody donated a vomit stained designer shirt, is it unreasonable to expect that somebody would wash it or dry clean it b4 donating? I do think awareness level is improving but donations of musty, peed on garage sale rejects still abound.

  • pkramer60

    My money, in part, went the the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society. They are taking massive numbers of dogs and cats from the Houston area due to arrive on Monday. They put out the call for crates, litter pans, litter and canned pet food. I have 3 cases of food on the way to them via Amazon. I send what they asked for! The balance of my cash will go to the Salvation Army. Their CEO earns a whooping $13,000 and not $600,000.

  • Rita / Bring Back Sophie 4 Real

    Once the crisis has subsided, I would like to hear from our KTers in the storm which organizations have been the most helpful (aside from Go Fund Me-type direct help.)

  • lily316

    People are filling tractor trailers up here to send down but no clothing. Mostly cleaning supplies. The Mennonite community goes down in large trucks filled with all sorts of tools and they stay and help individuals. Best Friends Animal rescue is a wonderful operation where all proceeds go to caring for displaced and rescued pets which are transported to safe quarters.

  • donna_loomis

    My daughter always brings the dresses that need repair to me to get ready for the next giveaway. I didn't really sign up for it. I'm just Mom and that's what happens. The ones that need alterations are taken to a friend of mine (also named Donna) after girls have chosen one they love that needs a little more love to make it just right.

    Pudgeder, Samaritan's Purse is my charity of choice as well.

  • socks

    I would not even think of sending "stuff." How in all that chaos would my old sweatshirt ever find its way to a needy person???!!!

    I too read that the Red Cross is working hard to improve their performance. Certainly there are dozens of wonderful organizations to support, but the RC is the most visible. I think a lot of corporate money has gone to them as well. People who live far from the disaster have no idea what would be a legit organization or just a money grab.

  • andreap

    I found this site. Amazon has wish lists of several organizations.

    I bought some adult diapers from Amazon to be sent directly down there.

    I was surprised and disgusted that the Red Cross has so much junk food on their list.

  • PRO

    Read this: <>;

    People just love to slam the Red Cross because they don't like the fact that Sen Mitch McConnell's wife heads it. You don't have to like his politics. The Red Cross does exemplary service in this country.

  • watchmelol

    The Red Cross puts boots on the ground and coordinates with other services to reach out to the largest number of those in need during a disaster.

  • bossyvossy

    I'm sharing this in the hopes future readers don't feel too guilty about making poor food choices in a time of crisis.

    when news about Harvey dominated the airways, I promptly went to the store to stock up, I thought that being confined indoors would be a wonderful opportunity to try fancy, healthy recipes I had been wanted to try. I purchased accordingly. Harvey became the monster nobody expected and many, us included, lost all our refrigerated food. When hurricane moved a little away from us, We got busy cleaning for us and neighbors. At the end of each day, there has been little energy left for cooking. Pizzas, Doritos, donuts were welcome sustenance. I vow to get back on track, but went on a junk food regimen out of convenience. I can't imagine any (temporary) shelter focusing on perfect nutritious meals.

    in fact, in the lessons learned department, I will stock up on easy fast and likely junk food. Grab and go, baby, grab and go.

  • pudgeder

    People "slam" the Red Cross because of their actions.

    10.4% of their income goes to Administrative salaries.

    The CEO makes over $500K a year. For a charitable organization, fully dependent on grants and donations, IMHO that's outrageous, I don't care WHO your married to.

    Here's an article from Money Magazine with more info.

  • sushipup1

    People just love to slam the Red Cross because they don't like the fact
    that Sen Mitch McConnell's wife heads it.

    Wrong. McConnell's wife is Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation. Nothing to do with the Red Cross.

    Remember that funds that go to the Red Cross and not spent on "recovery" are spent on immediate emergency responses. And money that you give today if not used in Texas tomorrow will be ready for the next time the Red Cross is first at the scene. So if Hurricane Irma blows away half of Florida next week, the Red Cross will be there.

  • Chi

    I don't have a problem with small administrative portions. 10% seems reasonable. It's a lot of work to run an organization of that size. Do you expect people to work for free? $500k is cheap for a CEO, and it's necessary to pay an attractive salary to recruit the talent needed. It does take skill and experience to run an organization of that size. It would be nice if the CEO would work for $50k but it's unreasonable to expect that, imo.

  • watchmelol

    90% of Red Cross funds go to services. The CEO makes under 0.02% of funds generated. Last year it was under 0.01% according to charity navigator. Considering the scope of the Red Cross how would you expect to get the best people to run things? The sheer scale of an organization like the Red Cross requires a skilled and talented leadership. Do you want professionals or people who have the skills of the recently mentioned McDonald's employee running the Red Cross? Skilled, educated people who choose humanitarian services over Wall Street deserve compensation for their talents just as they would in the private sector.

  • CindyMac

    Donating cash to local organizations is my choice. Plenty to choose from.

    bossyvossy thanked CindyMac
  • Michael

    Most of the stuff sent there will end up in a landfill.

  • Elmer J Fudd

    I would never give a cent to the Salvation Army, its proselytizing of a narrow religious view is something that I think doesn't fit anymore in our diverse country.

  • andreap

    Bossyvossy, I don't blame you for eating that in a crisis, but Red cross had only packaged chips and crackers and fruit wraps on their lists. I just wish they had nuts and jerky or something with some protein. Some people (especially diabetics) would have health repercussions eating only those processed carbs and nothing else for days. But I sympathize with your situation. Comfort food is needed at a time like this.

  • bossyvossy

    People needing help in Houston or any other disaster area will not care if the assistance comes from Red Cross, Salvation Army, church or witches coven. Politicizing charity is pitiful.

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