Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti: Charity begins at "oh"

If you're sending money to Haiti you might learn something interesting about how charities work on the web.

The DEC is set up to be a centralised money pot making the giving really straightforward. There one number, you give money, and pray as much of it gets to the source as possible. It's designed to make knee-jerk charity as easy as possible: Something terrible has happened - I want to help - Oh, that was easy. It's also designed to stop charities competing with each other in an undignified disaster scramble.

Now let's see what happened when Eddie Mair gave out the phone number on the PM Blog.

After a few comments (thanks for the link/troops out/send the bankers' bonuses to Haiti) we get #6 - a plug for Oxfam with their campaign link. OK, it's from "pastymuncher" who may well not work for Oxfam, but look at how well-worded this comment is. Oxfam "support the immediate priorities - providing safe water and shelter material for the people who have lost their homes". From which you can infer that money sent elsewhere goes to non-essential frivolities.

Then comment #7 - Christian Aid.

Comment #10 is for the British Red Cross, with their link, an explanation of why they're great. And it appears to be from "BritishredcrossJ".

This is starting to look odd. Can charities really be trolling the blogs and social networks and punting people towards their own campaigns rather than the central pot?

I have some limited experience of this. I've worked for a couple of charities, and, while everyone there was very, very committed, I still remember the jealous fury at one charity when Oxfam got their link for a flood up first. No one at any point said "Well done Oxfam for starting to get donations in" or even "We've got to be more like them next time". No, it was just sullen bitterness.

Anyway, back to the thread. Just when it was all looking a bit desperate, along comes Lucien with comment #11:

I have no idea whether or not the posters promoting individual charities here have connections with those organisations, however ...
The point of a DEC appeal must be to centralise fund-raising and have all the relevent UK charities work together in vital disaster relief, not to operate competing PR and/or fund raising efforts. This thread is beginning to resemble a marketplace


There. Strangely the competing messages stop at this point. The next time I think "no one sane ever posts on message boards" I shall come back and read Lucien's comments. I'll never meet him, but I'll always adore him.

By the way - DEC are http://www.dec.org.uk