Yesterday we wrote about the difficulty, during natural disaster calamities, for donors to assess which relief charities might put their donation to work most effectively.

From Matthew Sherrington, now at EveryChild in London (and formerly at Greenpeace USA) here is a very informative description of the way disaster relief fundraising is coordinated in the UK. Does anyone think this might work in the US?

Dear Agitator,

There’s a bit of a disconnect between your wanting donors to humanitarian disasters to give from the heart and “leave the brain out of it”, and your proposed solution of country-by-country reviews for donors to consult. Seems like too much work to me, for both someone to compile, and for donors to plough through. However, your point about wanting to ensure donations are used most effectively is of course spot-on.

An alternative solution to your problem is the set-up here in the UK – the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which is a consortium of thirteen humanitarian agencies. When a disaster is deemed massive enough by the committee members, (which unfortunately also means one getting massive media attention), the DEC kicks in as a coordinated appeal, supported by endorsed air-time appeals by broadcasters including the BBC.

Member agencies don’t (indeed, can’t) advertise for funds because the DEC takes that on. Rules stipulate that the member organizations’ own appeal income is pooled for the period of the joint appeal. And monies raised are allocated to members according to their ability to operate and spend it on the ground in response to that emergency. The DEC-funded response is collectively evaluated too. That’s about the sum of it – you could check the exact procedures with the DEC directly.

But the concerned general public knows where to go, hopefully with confidence that money will be spent appropriately through the most effective organizations on the ground. Inter-agency competition is put to one side for the period of the joint appeal, in the interests of maximizing response to the emergency first. In return, the DEC doesn’t subsequently market to donors itself.

You can check out the current Burma appeal, and a record of past appeals, including the £390 million (about $800 million) raised for the 2004 Asia Tsunami.

If you check out the sites of consortium members, you should see their home page appeals are all identified with the DEC appeal. For example:

I’m not sure anything similar exists in the US.

Best wishes,

Director of Fundraising & Marketing


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