20 posts categorized "Haiti"

Sustainable support for Haiti's local food system: A commentary by Frank Giustra

September 14, 2021

Headshot_Frank_Giustra_croppedWithout long-term investment, food aid for Haiti risks being a Band-Aid

The aftershocks of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on August 14 are not only being felt by those nearest the epicenter.

The latest disaster not only has left six hundred and fifty thousand people needing immediate assistance but also has exposed the country's more than one million farming families, who depend on a precarious rural economy. While aid agencies are scrambling to distribute the World Food Programme's pre-positioned food and import additional supplies, farmers are facing the possibility of their ready harvests of staple crops going to waste. The result is loss of market opportunity, incomes, and the chance to sustain their livelihoods long enough to support Haiti's economic recovery.

If the lingering effects of the last major earthquake, which displaced 1.5 million people in 2010, are any indication, the full impact could be devastating for the country's food producers, their families, and communities, who lose out twice: first to the damage from the earthquake and then to the subsequent short-term influx of cheap imported food.

Before this latest earthquake, almost half the country, or 4.4 million people, faced food insecurity, while an even greater proportion — including an estimated 90 percent of the rural population — were living below the poverty line. Given that 60 percent of rural families rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, it follows that any shocks that impact food markets will also have a lasting impact on their economic security and well-being.

Conversely, supporting this key sector now and in the long-term is a fast-track way to tackle poverty, hunger, health disparities, and inequality and build resilience to the secondary impacts of natural disasters....

Read the full commentary by Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate Entertainment, Giustra Foundation, Acceso, and Million Gardens Movement.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Empowerment Is Key

August 10, 2015

Digicel_haiti_schoolMany businesses understand the importance of giving back to their communities; research has shown that in order to earn trust in the communities where we work, corporations should start by doing “good business” that has a positive societal impact. But there’s more we can and should do to ensure that our efforts have a lasting effect.

The role of corporate citizenship is of utmost importance in emerging economies where resources are scarce and extreme poverty has created an urgent need for initiatives and partnerships that can improve the well-being of local people. This need is even more pronounced in countries like Haiti that have suffered extreme devastation. The massive earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in 2010 — a disaster that killed more than 200,000 people, left 1.5 million homeless, and damaged or destroyed 4,000 schools — created both an urgent need for immediate foreign assistance and a recognition that the effort to rebuild devastated communities and the Haitian economy would take years. While much work remains to be done, I can report that significant progress has been made.

Paradis des Indiens, a Digicel Foundation Haiti grantee, is a small local organization whose efforts to improve education in Haiti’s Grande Anse region offer lessons for all corporate sustainability funders. Using a community-service model, the organization engages children in school improvement projects and volunteer work. Children are encouraged to play an integral role in these projects and, through their participation, develop both a deeper sense of pride in and a sense of responsibility for their communities, which, in turn, inspires a greater commitment among them to rebuilding Haiti itself. While this kind of involvement in community service isn’t typical in developing countries, the impressive ability of Paradis des Indiens to instill a sense of pride and ownership in children is a perfect illustration of how a focus on empowering community members can lead to successful and sustainable projects over the longer term.

Continue reading »

‘Fatal Assistance’: The Promise and Failure of Humanitarian Aid in Haiti

February 20, 2014

(Kathryn Pyle is a documentary filmmaker and a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In her previous post, she wrote about the documentary Shored Up, winner of the 2014 Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Fund & Award.)

Fatal_assistance_posterThe magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, killed more than 200,000 Haitians, injured over 300,000 people, and left some 1.5 million Haitians homeless. It also devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince, destroying buildings and wiping out large swaths of the city's infrastructure. As in most natural disasters, it was the poor, living in the most vulnerable areas, who were most affected – and Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The international response was immediate and unprecedented: ultimately, $14 billion was pledged for relief and recovery efforts by donor countries, bilateral and multilateral agencies, individuals, and foundations and corporations. The total amount actually disbursed was considerably less but still significant for a country with a population of only ten million.

Four years later, the clamor that arose almost immediately over how the aid was being disbursed, continues. In an editorial last month marking the fourth anniversary of the earthquake, the New York Times declared that despite the outpouring of support (and notwithstanding certain achievements), "Haiti is a fragile, largely forgotten country" where more than 170,000 people still live in temporary shelters.

A major criticism of the response has been the lack of direct support for, and meaningful consultation with, Haitians. According to the Guardian, of the $9 billion spent in Haiti by January 2013, 94 percent was funneled through donors' own entities, the United Nations, international NGOs, and private contractors. Reports since then confirm that only 5 percent of the money pledged for relief and recovery efforts in the country reached Haitian organizations.

Fatal Assistance, a new documentary by Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck, provides a personal account of what happened in the weeks and months after the quake struck and, at the same time, is a plea for a more effective approach to humanitarian assistance in developing countries. Completed in 2013, the film premiered last year at Berlinale, the Berlin international film festival, and has been shown as part of the 2014 Human Rights Film Festival screening in cities across the U.S.

When the earthquake struck, Peck, like many other Haitians living abroad, returned home to help. "Those first weeks were a time of solidarity and connection," he told me. "Everybody slept outside. The Haitians were organizing everything."

That changed when the international relief groups arrived.

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (March 9-10, 2013)

March 10, 2013

Daylight_savings_2013Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


In a two-part series on her Non-Profit Marketing blog (here and here), Katya Andresen shares highlights of a discussion she had with Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward about the key themes in their recently published book Social Change Anytime Everywhere, including how nonprofits can use online tools to advance their work.

On the Communications Network blog, Courtney Williamson, the network's community manager, shares slides and video from Avoiding the Blind Spot: Telling Your Story With Pictures, a recent network webinar featuring Resource Media's Liz Banse and Scott Miller. Among other things, Banse and Miller outline three principles of good communication: 1) people are visual first, verbal second; 2) people's decisions and actions are based on emotional reaction more than rational thought; and 3) visuals are the most effective communications vehicles for evoking emotion and getting people to take action.

Disaster Relief

On the techPresident blog, Julia Wetherell looks at findings from a new Internews report on the effectiveness of crisis mapping following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Among other things, the report found that the crisis map created on the Ushahidi platform was "not as critical to [the humanitarian] response" as previously thought, in part because many victims of the disaster weren't aware of it. "The accessibility of crisis mapping was also dependent on the availability of Internet service," says Wetherell. To address that shortcoming, the report recommends strengthening IT infrastructure, particularly in less connected rural areas, before the next disaster hits.

NPR has a good interview with reporter Jonathan Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

Continue reading »

Yéle Haiti Responds to NY Post Allegations

November 30, 2011

Haiti_earthquake_10Yesterday, we posted a digested version of a November 27 New York Post article ("Questions Dog Wyclef's Haiti Fund") which suggested that earthquake-relief funds raised by Yéle Haiti, a charity co-founded by hip-hop star Wyclef Jean (who is Haitian), in the months after the quake had been used improperly. At the heart of the Post's allegations are P&A Construction, which is run by Warnel Pierre, the brother of Jean's wife, Claudinette, and two independent contractors, Miami-based Amisphere Farm Labor Inc. and Samosa SA, in Port-au-Prince.

That article generated the following response from Hugh Locke, a co-founder of Yéle Haiti who served initially as executive director of the charity's Haiti operation and then as president of the combined Haiti and U.S. operations (until this past February). In the interest of fairness (and the facts), we thought it was important to reprint Locke's comments in their entirety.

Feel free to weigh in on Locke's comments, the Post's reporting, and/or our version of the Post story in the comments section below.



My name is Hugh Locke and I was until earlier this year the president of Yéle Haiti. I would like to set the record straight regarding the NY Post article.

Bad journalism can be the result of sloppiness, incompetence, or a distortion of facts in order to serve a bias or editorial agenda. All three of these traits are on full and splendid display in the November 27, 2011, New York Post article "Questions Dog Wyclef's Haiti Fund" by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein. These two reporters have Wyclef Jean, co-founder of Yéle Haiti along with Jerry Duplessis and myself, in their sights in a no-holds-barred effort to sell papers, and no pesky truth is going to stand in their way.

The Yéle staff and our various partners who braved a chaotic and dangerous situation in order to deliver emergency relief to victims of the January 12, 2010, earthquake in Haiti are true heroes in my book. Ms. Vincent and Ms. Klein cannot be allowed to discredit our collective efforts with falsehood and innuendo. What follows are the facts and figures to counter to each accusation in their Post article.

1. How much did Yéle receive in donations following the earthquake in Haiti and how much of that money was used for emergency relief?

NY Post: "In the months following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a charity run by hip-hop star Wyclef Jean spent a pittance of the money it took in on disaster relief and doled out millions in questionable contracts....Records show that Yele Haiti spent just $5.1 million for emergency relief efforts, including food and water delivery to makeshift survivor camps...."

HL Response: As reported in Yéle Haiti’s 2010 IRS 990 tax filing, the organization received $16 million in donations that year (figures quoted are rounded off). More than half of these donations were received in the weeks immediately following the earthquake. Over the course of 2010 we spent a total of $9.2 million -- $8.2 million for programs (most of that for emergency relief and a small portion for other Yéle programs) and $1 million (or roughly 11 percent) on administrative overhead. Yéle made a decision not to expend all the funds raised in 2010 during that same year because people in the tent camps continued to need support. Consequently $6.8 million was carried over to cover operations in 2011.

Clarifications about contracts, none of which were "questionable," are answered in the points that follow.

Yéle’s activities in 2010 were a combination of emergency relief and long-term rebuilding. Here is an overview of what we accomplished.

Emergency Relief: Yéle worked with non-elected community leaders and elders within a core group of 30 of the tent camps throughout Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas to identify needs and coordinate aid delivery. These targeted camps had a combined population of just under 80,000. Here is a summary of what was distributed by Yéle over the course of 2010:

  • 2,000 tents of various sizes
  • 873 tarp kits for building shelters
  • 4.2 million gallons of filtered water delivered in trucks (including to cholera areas)
  • 233,000 10-ounce pouches of water
  • 32,850 bottles of water in various sizes
  • 98,000 hot meals
  • 14,400 items of canned and packaged food
  • 270,310 nutrition bars
  • 4,425 individual care bags with personal toiletries and other items
  • 8,705 items of new and used clothing
  • 3,520 pairs of new and used shoes
  • 1,000 pairs of new boots
  • 14,300 pounds of medical supplies
  • 1,240 windup and/or solar flashlights
  • 2,500 windup and/or solar radios
  • 26 generators
  • 900 sheets and blankets

In response to the cholera outbreak in October of 2010, Yéle purchased 2 million water purification tablets and received a donation of 50,000 bars of soap and 100,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. These items were distributed by going tent to tent in the camps, noting that a portion of them were distributed in 2011.

Employment: There were very few jobs following the earthquake and even fewer for the 1.3 million people living in tent camps. Yéle began a program in 2010 that employed up to 2,000 people at a time to clean the streets of Port-au-Prince, paying them a respectable $7 a day. Towards the end of the year a vocational training program in carpentry, plumbing, and masonry was added to give youth marketable job skills.

Youth Development & Education: Yéle provided weekly support for two residential orphanages that were damaged in the earthquake. In additional to providing operational costs, one orphanage was completely rebuilt and more than doubled in size while the second was repaired and some additional facilities added. Yéle managed an onsite medical service for all the orphans as well.

Tree Planting & Agriculture: Haiti has less than 2 percent tree cover and imports roughly 70 percent of its food. Yele’s response in 2010 was to increase the capacity of local farmers, working with them to plant trees and introduce better farming practices that resulted in higher yields. A second Yéle program involved commissioning peasant farmers to grow vegetables that were delivered weekly to up to 2,000 orphans.

2. What was the role of Amisphere Farm Labor Inc. in Yéle’s emergency relief efforts?

NY Post: "A purported Miami business called Amisphere Farm Labor Inc. received a whopping $1,008,000 as a 'food distributor'. No trace of the company could be found last week in the Sunshine State, but records show the company’s head, Amsterly Pierre, bought three properties in Florida last year, including a condo in an upscale waterfront community.

"The firm incorporated in August 2008 but never filed any of the subsequent financial paperwork required to do business in Florida, according to the Florida Department of State.

"The address listed for the business is an auto-repair shop in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, where a worker said he had never heard of Pierre or Amisphere. Pierre did not return a call for comment...."

HL Response: Getting food to people who were in makeshift tent camps following the earthquake was a priority. It was particularly important to send in hot meals because people had limited capacity to cook in the camps. With this in mind we approached Amsterly Pierre, a businessman in Haiti who had experience in this field, and asked him to set up the operation on our behalf. For this purpose he used the bank account of a company he had registered in the US, Amisphere, because the banks were not yet functioning in Haiti.

In the midst of the chaos that characterized Port-au-Prince at that time, Mr. Pierre used his operation on the ground there to find a kitchen that, although damaged, could be made operational with a minimum of effort. He found sources of food, some of which had to be brought in by truck from the Dominican Republic, and assembled a staff that could cook and deliver thousands of meals at a time.

The hot meal program began on January 24 with the first distribution of hot meals to tent camps, with a particular focus on women and children living there. Over the next three months a total of 98,000 hot meals were served in the course of 15 distributions that ranged between 5,000 and 7,000 at a time.

While the primary emphasis was on the tent camps, during the early phase of the program we provided some of these meals to members of the national police force who were themselves living in tents, as the government was unable to give them any food or wages for the first month and a half following the earthquake. We also provided meals during that same time for a number of civil servants who were in a similar situation but who were determined to stay on the job to do what they could to restore services for the population.

In addition to the hot meals, we also contracted Mr. Pierre to develop a dry food ration kit. These were prepared in the Dominican Republic and brought in by truck and distributed in tent camps. Each kit had enough rations for an average family for one week. A total of 700 of these kits were distributed.

The term "whopping" should be applied to the impact Mr. Pierre had on Yéle’s behalf. Each hot meal fed an average of two people, and the ration kits fed five people for a week -- so through Mr. Pierre we were able to feed around 200,000 people at a cost of about $5 per person at a time when food was scarce, hot meals almost unheard of, and delivery of food into the tent camps was regularly causing riots.

3. What was the role of Samosa SA in Yéle’s emergency relief efforts?

NY Post: "Yele Haiti also paid $577,185 to a company called Samosa SA, based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, as a 'bulk water supplier'. But some of that money went to rent a house for Yele Haiti volunteers on Samosa’s property at the inflated price of $35,000 a month...."

HL Response: Samosa SA is a Haitian company that Yéle contracted to provide fresh water to those living in tent camps. Samosa utilized 14 of their 1,200-gallon tanker trucks to deliver an average of 34,000 gallons of water a day on a rotating schedule to 30 different tent camps. The water came from an aquifer on the Samosa property and they filtered the water on site using a reverse osmosis process. While Samosa provided the trucks and drivers, Yéle sent its own staff to accompany each delivery -- having made sure that each tent camp would be ready with volunteers to help manage the operation and residents lined up with pails ready to take the water.

Water distribution began on January 24 and over the course of the remainder of 2010 a total of 4.2 million gallons of purified water was distributed at a unit cost of 10¢ a gallon. The unit cost went up in October when half the water was diverted as Yéle contributed to fighting the outbreak of cholera in the rural areas north of Port-au-Prince. The increased cost was a combination of more fuel being required to drive outside the capital plus a bonus paid to the drivers because they were afraid to go into the midst of the cholera outbreak when it had just begun and the population was terrified and did not yet understand how it was spread.

There was a second and separate contract with Samosa SA for Yéle to rent a seven-acre walled property that included a house. The property and house were rented from May 1 onwards for $15,000 a month.

The house was used by Yéle as a center of our relief activities, serving as both headquarters and main office. Our U.S. staff and visiting volunteers also stayed there. The house had three bedrooms and by using mattresses and sleeping bags we were able to accommodate as many as 30 people at a time, depending on the scale of the distributions or other emergency relief programs that were being implemented.

The rest of the property was used as the site of a warehouse operation where relief items such as tents, tarps, blankets, food, clothing, shoes, medical supplies, windup flashlights, windup radios, and other items were stored, sorted, and loaded onto trucks for delivery to the 30 tent camps that we served on a regular basis.

The warehouse operation had two components -- we installed a large concrete slab on which we placed nine permanent 40-foot containers and had space for six more that shuffled between the property and the port. The second component involved a 44-foot diameter geodesic dome that we erected and which was used for both storage and sorting.

Lastly, we built a facility that was intended to serve the needs of amputees. Two geodesic domes were erected, but the facility was not completed when it was discovered that the initial government estimates amputees had been significantly overstated. The two domes were taken down and are currently in storage.

As the overall emergency relief needs in Haiti changed, Yéle subsequently moved out of the rented Samosa property in early 2011.

4. What was the role of P & A Construction in Yéle’s emergency relief efforts?

NY Post: "Yele Haiti paid five contractors to accomplish its goals, including P&A Construction --- which received $353,983 and is run by Warnel Pierre, the brother of Jean’s wife, Claudinette...."

HL Response: Yéle contracted a company called P & A Construction to design and build several things, and in keeping with a policy of transparency we included the fact that the owner of the company is a relative of Wyclef Jean in our IRS 990 tax filing for 2010.

Finding a contractor who can build anything in Haiti on time and on budget is a rarity, and Warnel Pierre was that person. As we did with all contracts, estimates for projects were reviewed against standard costs per square foot or the relevant unit of comparison, depending on the project. In all cases we were satisfied that Mr. Pierre was providing a good service at a competitive rate.

Among the services provided by Mr. Pierre during 2010 were the following:

  • repair and complete rebuilding and expansion of the Jean et Marie Orphanage that had been damaged in the earthquake;
  • repair and the addition of a kitchen, bathrooms, and two new classrooms at the Bon Samaritan Orphanage that had been damaged in the earthquake;
  • installation of electrical power lines, septic and water storage tanks, and a well; re-surfacing with gravel and a drainage system, building of toilets and shower facility, and other upgrades to the Place Fierte tent camp in the Cité Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince;
  • installation of concrete slab and related ramps for container-based warehouse storage;
  • installation of concrete slab base, plumbing, bathrooms, and showers for the amputee facility, including assisting in the installation of two geodesic domes on the site; and
  • installation of concrete slab and surrounding gravel drainage area for geodesic dome used as part of the warehouse operation, including assisting in the installation of the dome.

5. What did Yéle do to ensure transparency of operation?

NY Post: " 'Given the fact that Yele Haiti was involved in a swirl of controversy after the earthquake in Haiti, it's all the more reason to be more transparent to ensure donors that their funds are going to help people,' said the Better Business Bureau’s Bennett Weiner...."

HL Response: Yéle hired the prestigious accounting firm of RSM McGladrey to improve its level of transparency and together we developed one of the most comprehensive and timely systems of disclosure of any NGO working in Haiti. Beginning in September 2010, Yéle regularly updated this financial information on its website.

6. Did Yéle lose $244,000 in 2009?

NY Post: "The group lost $244,000 in 2009...."

HL Response: This allegation is simply made up. Yéle began 2009 with $57,421 in cash on hand that was carried over from the previous year. To that was added donations in 2009 totaling $749,480, for a total of $806,901. We spent $994,344 in 2009, with the difference of $187,443 between what we spent and what we received being invoices that came in the latter part of 2009 and which were paid in 2010. There was no loss.


(Locke is currently writing a book about his six years of humanitarian service in Haiti.)

Weekend Link Roundup (August 20-21, 2011)

August 21, 2011

End_summer Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


The Nonprofit Quarterly's Rick Cohen examines the "unfolding scandal" involving Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, who admitted to providing millions of dollars in cash payments to University of Miami football players for a wide range of activities and personal expenses, including travel and in one case an abortion. Cohen says it's hard not to wonder "how many other Nevin Shapiros are out there showering the athletes and sports programs at nonprofit and public universities with millions of dollars in cash, all based on the misguided idea that such behavior is good, harmless, and maybe even charitable...."


Exhale, an Oakland-based nonprofit that works to build "abortion peace through listening and storytelling," rounds up a few posts about ethical storysharing from Thaler Pekar, a regular contributor to PhilanTopic.

Idealist.org's Julia Smith shares some examples of how nonprofits are using QR (quick response) codes to engage their constituents via mobile phone.

Corporate Philanthropy

On the Foundation Center's Transparency Talk blog, Mark Foley commends the American Express Foundation for creating the CSR Now! blog. Written by Amex Foundation president Tim McClimon, who also serves as vice president of corporate social responsibility at the financial services company, the blog aims to "get at what's happening in corporate social responsibility today -- from the point of view of a corporate practitioner."

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 15 - 16, 2011)

January 16, 2011

Martin-luther-king-jr Our weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen explains why, in a 2.0 world, the terms audience, cultivation, and message strategy "don’t reflect how [nonprofits] should be doing business."

Disaster Relief

Last week saw the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 and left a million more homeless in Haiti. To mark the occasion, a number of bloggers weighed in with their thoughts and reflections. In a post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz looks at a new report from the Knight Foundation which examined the roles of media and communications in responding to the disaster and offers some second thoughts of her own on the role of mobile text giving in the wake of the disaster.

On the GiveWell blog, Holden Karnofsky explains what charities have and have not accomplished in Haiti in the twelve months since the quake, while on the Charity Navigator blog Sandra Miniutti shares a few comments from disaster relief organizations that were made during a recent roundtable discussion "about what went right, what went wrong....and what’s next for their charity in Haiti."


In conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy wonder whether philanthropy is commendable? "For us," they write

this is what it really comes down to: how does philanthropy measure up during these challenging times? Are we good philanthropic neighbors? Is institutional philanthropy the priest or the Levite or the Samaritan? Are grantmakers truly willing to take risks to help a brother or sister in need? Is philanthropy more than merely commendable? Do we possess the dangerous altruism of the good Samaritan and of the man whose legacy we celebrate this holiday?

Poverty Alleviation

The already heated debate around microcredit and the proper role of for-profit lenders in the space got even hotter this weekend. On Saturday, in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Grameen Bank founder and microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus argued that in its quest for profits, the industry had lost its way. In a post on his Philanthrocapitalism blog, Matthew Bishop quickly rode to the defense of for-profit microlenders, taking Yunus to task for suggesting, among other things, that they were "loan sharks" and comparing the Nobel Prize winner to the mythical Greek titan Cronus, who devoured his own children rather than let them take his place in the heavens. Bishop's post, in turn, drew a sharp reponse from Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon, who used words like "peculiar" and "disengenuous" to characterize Bishop's arguments. You can bet we'll be hearing a lot more on this topic in the months to come.

On the Case Foundation blog, Josh Tabb shares a video in which Invisible.tv founder Mark Horvath explains how he uses technology to give the homeless a voice.

Social Media

And on the Frogloop blog, Rad Campaign co-founder Allyson Kapin argues that social media is a bubble about to burst. Writes Kapin:

In the past four years, we have witnessed social media transition from a social space to a medium that often feels like a competitive public relations arena filled with “influencers” who have so-called Klout and strategists who have made money on empty promises.

"To be honest, it's so crowded and very few people are listening to the open stream anymore. That was quite different when we originally launched TweetsGiving," said [Stacey] Monk [co-founder, Epic Change].

So the next time someone tells your nonprofit that social media is the bees knees, ask them to show you social media's ROI - aka it's direct impact on nonprofits. Ask them to show you the increase in memberships and donations across the nonprofit sector and the evidence that more people are calling or meeting with their members of Congress to lobby for legislation. Ask for proof that the needle is being moved.

Social media as a fundraising, list building, and organizing tool has been inflated for four years. How much longer can nonprofits afford to significantly over-invest in it, before the bubble bursts?

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org and have a great week!

-- Regina Mahone

CGI 2010 Highlights [Video]

September 26, 2010

It was a busy week here in New York, and I'm still trying to process the dozens of sessions that were webcast from (or in conjunction with) the UN Millennium Development Summit and the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

For many, CGI and the MDG campaign epitomize everything that's wrong with international development as practiced by rich donor governments and their NGO partners: an addiction to grand schemes; an over-reliance on technocrats; and an unwillingness or inability to address some of the most important contributing factors (agricultural subsidies, resource exploitation, corruption) to global poverty.

I'm not an aid expert. But I found myself (as I have in the past) inspired by much of what I saw and heard this week in New York. Yes, the UN, which was established by charter in 1945, is showing its age. At the same time, one has to be impressed by a new generation of activist-geeks who want to open-up and energize the MDG campaign with social media. And sure, there are all sorts of agendas in play at a CGI meeting. But as Bill Clinton reminded those in attendance (and all of us watching on the Web), the folks making commitments, taking time out from busy schedules, and/or flying halfway around the globe to be part of a panel don't have to be there; they want to be there.

So without further adieu, here are three of my favorite sessions from this year's CGI meeting:

Continue reading »

Pakistan: Mobile Giving Campaigns

August 23, 2010

The situation in Pakistan continues to worsen. Even as flooding subsides in the northern part of the country, the more populous south is being inundated. As one reporter on the ground put it -- and the CNN video below makes clear -- the country is experiencing a slow-motion catastrophe of "unparalleled proportions."

Three weeks after the Indus River began to overflow its banks, however, donations to help those affected by the flooding -- latest estimates put that number at 20 million -- are running well behind the rate seen after recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year. As the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Caroline Preston reported this morning, 22 U.S. aid groups have raised a total of $9.8 million to assist Pakistanis affected by the floods, whereas two-and-a-half weeks after the Haiti earthquake, 40 aid groups had brought in a total of $560 million.

According to some observers, it will take Pakistan, already a poor country, fifteen years to recover from this month's floods. A desperately poor and weakened Pakistan is in no one's best interest -- least of all the Pakistani people. Any of the organizations listed below will be happy to put your small donation to good use.

In the U.S.:

  • For Central Asia Institute, text the word CAI to 50555 to donate $10. Central Asia Institute provides community-based education opportunities in Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • For CHF International, text the word PAKISTAN to 50555 to donate $5. CHF International will provide transitional shelter, work to restore livelihoods, and ultimately re-build Pakistan's economic and social foundations.
  • For Islamic Society of North America, text the word RELIEF to 27722 to donate $10. The Islamic Society of North America contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.
  • For UNICEF, text the word FLOODS to 864233 to donate $10.
  • For UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), text the word SWAT to 50555 to donate $10. UNHCR emergency response teams are distributing tents, relief supplies, and humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the flooding.
  • For U.S. Department of State, text the word FLOOD to 27722 to donate $10. Created by the U.S. government, the Pakistan Relief Fund will serve as a mechanism for the public to contribute money to the ongoing efforts in Pakistan.
  • For the World Food Programme, text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10. WFP will use helicopters to transport food to people in isolated communities across the Swat Valley.
  • For World Emergency Relief, text the word RESCUE to 50555 to donate $10. Based in San Diego County, the Rescue Task Force responds to natural and man-made disasters worldwide.
  • For Zakat Foundation of America, text the work ZAKATUS to 50555 to donate $10. The Zakat Foundation has begun to address the immediate needs of flood survivors by providing food and clothing in four key Pakistani districts.

In Canada:

  • Text the word REDCROSS to 30333 to donate $10 to the Canadian Red Cross.
  • Text the word GIVE in English or DON in French to 45678 to donate $5 to UNICEF.
  • Text the word WORLD to 45678 to donate $5 to World Vision Canada.


  1. mGive Mobile Donation Campaigns Established to Assist Flood Victims in Pakistan (PRNewswire 8/6/10)
  2. Donate to the Pakistan Relief Fund
  3. Mobile Giving "Text-to-Donate" Campaigns for Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts Launched by the Canadian Red Cross, UNICEF and World Vision Canada (8/22/10)

-- Mitch Nauffts and Regina Mahone

3rd Annual Clinton Global Initiative University Meeting

April 17, 2010

Cgi_logo2 The third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) has descended on the University of Miami campus, where more than a thousand college students, dozens of university presidents, and various nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs will spend all or part of the weekend participating in workshops and meetings focused on five topics of importance to college students: education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. This year's meeting also will focus on reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

As at all CGI events, participants are expected to make "commitments to action" -- a comprehensive, formal commitment to address a specific problem on their campus, in their community, or somewhere in the world. This year, participating students volunteered a thousand new commitments, while various universities and national youth organizations offered an additional sixty. When fully funded, the value of those commitments is expected to total roughly $42 million and will improve the lives of more than 290,000 people around the globe.

The following commitments (among others) were announced today:

Maren Gelle, Kayla Johnson, Sarah Carlson, and Daniel Novas will offer bike rentals for students on the St. Olaf College campus. The goal of the project is to encourage a bicycle culture on campus while reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Gelle, Johnson, Carlson, and Novas also will work with the local community to donate bikes to Haiti to be used as bicycle ambulances.

• Syracuse University undergraduates Tim Biba, Gregory Klotz, Kate Callahan, and Allison Stuckless will launch a literacy and nutrition program -- Books and Cooks -- for children in low-income housing in Syracuse, New York. In addition to improving students' reading skills, the students will teach workshops devoted to cooking and nutrition.

• New York University student Michelle Pomeroy, in partnership with the Tibetan Women's Association, will lead a two-week leadership skills course in India for exiled Tibetan women. The course will train women in leadership, settlement officer responsibilities, conflict resolution, and gender sensitization, with the goal of preparing the women to be elected or appointed as settlement officers.

• University of Miami undergrads Kaitlin Birgenthal, Safia Alajlan, Kelley Winship, and Sara Johnson will work to expand Ocean Kids to Boston, Washington, D.C., the Bahamas, and Kuwait. Ocean Kids currently brings underserved elementary school students to the University of Miami campus, where they learn about marine life and science.

• Rockland Community College undergrads Mark Svensson and Tarik Abdelqader will work to combat the modern human slave trade in the U.S. by lobbying state officials in New York and urging them pass a resolution that aims to stem the flow of enslaved people into the country. Each year an estimated 14,000 to 17,000 people are brought to the U.S. to be traded as human slaves, with New York state functioning as one of the largest trafficking hubs. In 2009, the legislature of Rockland County passed a memorializing resolution co-authored by Svensson and Abdelqader, and the two plan to target other county legislatures as well.

• Bates College student Razin Mustafiz will create financial literacy workshops for the Somali and Somali-Bantu community in Lewiston, Maine. The workshops will cover the basics of financial planning, from opening a bank account to saving money for education. Mustafiz' commitment is supported by the Bates College Harward Center for Community Partnerships and Adroscoggin Bank.

• MIT student Christopher Moses will develop a course called "Sana Lab" to teach medical personnel and students in the Philippines how to adapt a mobile medicine system developed at MIT to poor, remote locations. His commitment ultimately aims to extend medical care to the conflict-ridden area of Mindanao.

• St. Lawrence University student Grace Ochieng will work to expand the Pads for the People Project that she started in her village of Lwala, Kenya, with the help of the Lwala Community Alliance and thirteen local women. Women who participate in the project are trained to sew menstrual pads and encouraged to sell them for a profit. Over the next six months, Grace will form partnerships and work to make the program more financially sustainable.

John Trimmer and Scott Teagarden, undergraduate engineering students at Bucknell University, will construct a rainwater harvesting system that will provide the three hundred residents of Tumaipa, Suriname, with reliable, clean running water year-round. Local labor and materials will be used in the construction of the rainwater catchment system, and a water committee will be established to take ongoing ownership for the project.

Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International and a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in association with Hippo Water International, will work to expand Hippo Water Rollers to India, providing Rollers to women and families. The Hippo, an innovative water transport tool designed to alleviate the problems associated with lack of access to water, makes it possible to collect twenty-four gallons of water, five times the amount possible using traditional methods, in much less time and much more easily.

• Makerere University graduate student Divinity Barkley will build an energy-efficient recording studio for the Amagezi Gemaanyi Youth Association (AGYA) Learning Center, a community center she founded in Kampala, Uganda. Her commitment will provide digital technology training to the Ugandan youth at AGYA, empower them to produce and market their own music, and serve as a source of revenue for AGYA's arts and educational programs. In addition, the recording studio will utilize solar power for 35 percent of its energy.

• Wesleyan student Kennedy Odede, in conjunction with Shining Hope for Communities and American Friends of Kenya, will work to empower and educate women in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa. His commitment has two parts: a Home Birth Network, through which women will be trained as home birth attendants; and the Women’s Microfinance Empowerment Project, which will use sustainable gardening techniques to grow vitamin-rich vegetables that provide desperately needed sources of nutrition at affordable prices.

• Purdue University student Keith Hansen will create the iRead Foundation to deliver childrens books to community health centers in Indiana. As vice president of the Purdue Engineering Student Council, Hansen oversees a group that puts on the largest student-run job fair in the nation, bringing over 350 of the nation’s biggest engineering companies to campus and raising nearly $500,000 dollars annually. A portion of those funds will be used to set up the foundation.

• Miami Dade College student Ximena Prugue will distribute 10,000 solar-powered lamps in India's rural communities, with the goal of reducing and/or eliminating kerosene lamp use. The D.Light Design Company lamps will be provided by Bogo Light at wholesale price, and Ximena will work with PTK Honor Society at Miami Dade to raise the money neccessary to purchase the lamps.

• MIT student Sreeja Nag will work to bring renewable, sustainable, and affordable energy to rural regions of India. After consulting local citizens, NGO representatives, and staff at Selco Solar India, Nag has created a report outlining how to bring energy to these areas. One of her ideas, for example, is to create detachable table lighting systems for students to carry home from a solar-powered charger at school.

• University of Miami students Kristina Rosales, Arielle Duperval, Austin Webbert, and Lissette Miller will establish two new community centers in Cite Soleil, a slum located in Port-au-Prince. The community centers will provide educational progams, cultural activities, mentoring, and opportunities for intercultural exchanges between the south Florida community and Haiti.

Khushbu Mishra, an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College, will open an art institute in Mithila, Nepal, to display and sell the cultural folk art of local women, empowering and improving the lives of their families. After it's completed, the center will be run by local women who will then train other women in the arts, thereby expanding the reach of the program.

Jessica Yamane, an undergraduate student at the University of California-Riverside, will design an experimental course on how communities can promote healing for domestic violence victims. Partnering with Alternatives to Domestic Violence, Path of Life Ministry's King's Hall Transitional Housing Program, and With Her Strength, Yamane hopes to modify this curriculum for integration in K-12 health and wellness programs throughout the Riverside School District.

Christine Meling, an undergraduate student at Luther College, will purchase the materials and sewing machines for women in Yari, Sudan, to make school uniforms for families that cannot afford them. The women also will receive training on how to sew and use the profits from uniform sales to sustain the program.

An Thi Minh Vo, in association with the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Hue City, Vietnam, will provide microloans of $212 to thirty-five families with children disabled by Agent Orange. The project aims to increase borrowers' income and ease the hardship of families struggling to afford health care and other basic needs.

• University of the Pacific graduate student Harnoor Singh will work with local physicians to provide free blood sugar and basic cardiovascular health screenings for California's migrant worker and supply low-cost prescription drugs to those in need. The tests, which can be completed for less than $15 per person, are of vital importance to California's migrant laborers, the majority of whom lack access to basic healthcare services.

Nathan O'Hara, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, in association with Makerere University and Vancouver General Hospital, will work to supply Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, with three hundred half-pins annually. Each year, there are unnecessary fatalities in Uganda due to a lack of vital medical supplies; half-pins, which are used to treat traumatic injuries involving fractured bones, are among those. A collection system in Vancouver-area hospitals will reprocesses the reusable pins, which will be delivered to Mulago Hospital twice a year.

Christina Newman, Sherley Codio, and Fabrice Marcelin, students at Virginia Tech, in partnership with Caritas and the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Gros-Morne, Haiti, will raise $60,000 and oversee the construction of a facility that can house more than 1,500 hens capable of producing 1,250 eggs per day -- 15 percent of the local egg supply. The three have already raised $23,000 and developed a business plan for the project. Their commitment will strengthen the local economy by reducing reliance on imports, and will empower local communities by providing much-needed employment opportunities.

Wow. As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Hats off to those who have stepped up with commitments. You're an inspiration to us all.

To learn more about and/or view webcasts from the event, which ends tomorrow, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Earthquake in Haiti: Leading U.S. Foundations Respond to the Crisis

January 22, 2010

Haiti_earthquake_10 In the immediate aftermath of the January 12 earthquake that brought widespread death and destruction to the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, the Foundation Center surveyed members of its Grantmaker Leadership Panel to gauge the reaction of top funders to the unfolding crisis. More than half (53 percent) of current panel members responded.

Findings from the survey suggest that a number of leading funders are considering a direct response to the crisis, with a primary focus on providing emergency assistance. Most of these funders expect to provide this support to intermediary organizations headquartered outside of Haiti. Not surprisingly, leading grantmakers that have provided funding related to Haiti and/or responded to other disasters in recent years were more likely to consider responding to this crisis.


• Among the 120 foundations that responded to the survey, 42 percent are considering providing assistance for relief and/or recovery efforts in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Another 22 percent are "uncertain," while roughly 36 percent do not anticipate providing a direct response at this time.

• Among community foundations, 44 percent expect to provide assistance in response to the crisis, and nearly half have already established funds to collect contributions. Overall, nine of the twenty community foundations that expect to provide assistance have created funds, while another four are considering establishing such a fund.

• Foundations that have provided funding related to Haiti and/or direct support in response to other recent disasters are more likely to consider funding in response to the earthquake in Haiti. Among the nineteen respondents that have provided funding benefiting Haiti over the past decade (either in-country or through intermediaries), 74 percent are considering a response to the current crisis. Of the seventy-nine respondents that have provided funding in response to other recent disasters (e.g., the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Pakistani earthquake, the September 11th terrorist attacks), 56 percent are considering offering support for relief and/or recovery efforts.

• Most of the fifty foundations that anticipate responding (60 percent) intend to direct assistance exclusively to intermediary organizations headquartered outside of Haiti. Among the remaining grantmakers, 14 percent expect to fund organizations based in Haiti, 12 percent anticipate funding both intermediaries and Haitian organizations and the remaining 14 percent are uncertain.

• The vast majority of leading foundations responding to the crisis (90 percent) expect to focus on providing "emergency relief." Among other priorities, half of responders (50 percent) expect to offer support for health and medical care.


• Among the fifty foundations considering a response to the crisis, 24 percent indicated that they would be interested in collaborating with other grantmakers, either directly or through regional associations or grantmaker networks.

• Close to one in five of the 120 foundations that responded to the survey (18 percent) have a formal plan in place to respond to these kinds of disasters. Twenty foundations (16 percent) noted that they had in-house expertise regarding disaster relief generally. Moreover, 37 percent of respondents indicated that they had in-house expertise regarding nonprofit organizations that may be particularly well-positioned to respond to this disaster.

To read/download the complete advisory (4 pages, PDF), click here.


The Foundation Center's Grantmaker Leadership Panel draws upon the expertise of chief executives at leading U.S. private and public foundations on critical issues of interest to the sector. Currently, 225 foundation leaders participate. The panel does not currently include leaders of corporate foundations, which had donated more than $103 million in cash and in-kind goods in response to the disaster as of January 22.

What Donors Can Learn From Past Disasters

January 21, 2010

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. In his previous post, he wrote about the late Brooke Astor's many contributions to and generous support for neighborhood development efforts in New York City.)

By a twist of fate, I was president of the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers (now Philanthropy New York) during both the Indian Ocean tsunami and hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The New York City area has the greatest concentration of international donors in the world. Major international foundations such as the Atlantic Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, and Rockefeller Foundation, and multinational corporations such as Citigroup, American Express, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, among others, are all based in the metropolitan area.

As a result of their presence, it was clear to us at NYRAG that we had an important role to play in galvanizing a philanthropic response to disasters outside our area. At the same time, the efforts of NYRAG members after 9/11 had resulted in a number of important lessons for donors that could be applied to other disasters.

By the time the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated communities from Thailand to Kenya, private donors had recognized that traditional governmental mechanisms and "first-line" responders such as the Red Cross were no longer enough to respond effectively to a major international disaster. Individual donors, foundations, and corporate donors were all needed to ensure that affected communities had the resources at their disposal to rebuild. Indeed, much can be gleaned from the experiences of grantmakers that responded to those two disasters -- experiences that can serve as guideposts for the massive charitable effort under way to help the people and nation of Haiti.

Key lessons:

Continue reading »

Haiti Earthquake: Day 7

January 19, 2010

Like many of you, we're still trying to grasp the magnitude of the earthquake and unfolding humanitarian crisis in Haiti. Indeed, an article in the New York Times over the weekend called it "one of the worst natural disasters in a century." The following may help to put it into perspective. (Last updated: 10:30 p.m. EST.)

-- Mitch Nauffts

'I Still Believe We Shall Overcome'

January 18, 2010

The images of death and suffering coming out of Haiti have caused many to reflect on ideas and concepts such as justice, compassion, and mercy, while others have been tempted to look away or find comfort in the notion it couldn't happen here because we are richer, we have better infrastructure, we are American and therefore blessed.

But as Martin Luther King tried to teach us, distinctions such as "American," "Haitian," "black," or "white" mean little in the cosmic scheme of things. We are all creatures of the same universe.

As we honor Dr. King today, let us remember that while he had more reasons than most to walk away from the struggle for equal rights and justice, he had a deep and abiding faith in America and mankind, and would not accept despair as "the final response to the ambiguities of history." As he said in his 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.


I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land.

"And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid."

I still believe that we shall overcome....

We've come a long way and overcome much since 1964, thanks in part to the vision and efforts of great men like Dr. King. But let us not forget that there's work to be done -- here and, right now, in Haiti. Were he alive, you know that's where Dr. King would most want to be.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Haiti Updates: The Lede

If you're looking for a one-stop site for news and updates from Haiti, be sure to check out  The Lede, the news blog of the New York Times, where Robert Mackey and his NYT colleagues have been doing excellent work since Wednesday.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to PhilanTopic


Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Filter posts