Pledge to Red Cross for Haiti Reconsidered

October 26, 2010; Source: Miami Herald | The NPQ Newswire has touched on the slow flow of donations to Haiti several times. Many government and charitable donations were promised after the earthquake devastated the poor nation on January 12, but many remain unfulfilled. The city of North Miami collected $116,000 on behalf of the Red Cross, but the money has been sitting in a city government bank account since March.

The city apparently decided to sit on the money after news that the Red Cross spent only a quarter of what it received for Haitian relief, perhaps a high-minded reason not to hand the money willy-nilly to the oft-criticized Red Cross. The city plans to decide how to disburse the money by next Tuesday, having received proposals from nonprofits in New Mexico, New York, and Massachusetts as well as South Florida for cuts of the Red Cross money.

At least three of the eight South Florida groups aren’t yet 501(c)(3) organizations or at least don’t seem to appear on the IRS’s charity database (two appear to be nonprofits that have shut down and closed up shop). One of the three Florida groups is the five-month-old One Help One Haiti Ministries, whose president admits that it hasn’t received its 501(c)(3) approval from the IRS.

The Red Cross for its part isn’t particularly happy with the city, suggesting that it “deceived donors” by raising money for the Red Cross but not turning it over. The city says it might allocate some of the funds to the Red Cross, but that doesn’t mollify them. The president of Nord Ouest Environmental counters that the city’s approach will allow smaller, grassroots nonprofits to access funds that generally go to “the big companies . . . no matter what.” One doesn’t have to be a fan of the Red Cross to agree with them at least to some extent—it’s not considered best practice in fundraising to raise money for a group but direct the donations elsewhere.—Rick Cohen