When a crisis hits, like it has in Turkey and Syria, people around the world are motivated to help. Even Russia, a country that has caused massive destruction in Ukraine, was among the nations responding to give help. In times like these we need our mind to guide our heart. It seems prudent to me to know that what I am giving has the greatest possible benefit for the cause to which it is being given. I want to suggest a few principles and tips to keep in mind when the heart urges you to open your wallet for a human crisis.
Rule number one: Assess the agency that will handle your money. All relief agencies are not created equal. There are organizations that use 80% of the donations for the administration of the agency. On the other hand, there are those that disperse 90% of their income and use only 10% for administration. Personally, I want to know how much of what I am giving is going directly to the need.
Rule number two: Be cautious when it comes to “Matching Gifts.” If there is someone who will match my gift – wow – that gives the agency double the money. That leaves two questions in my mind:
a.) Am I tempted to give less knowing that what I give will be matched? b.) The fact that my gift is doubled does not mean that what is given will be used in the most efficient way.
Rule number three: What is the track record of the relief agency? The relief agencies that are the most effective are those who have already been operating there. They have “boots on the ground”: personnel, partners, processes, and infrastructure. Give to these. How long has the agency been operating and with what track record?
Beware of scams: Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who will take advantage of human tragedy to profit for themselves. A few years ago, I read of situation where a “relief ” agency was soliciting funds for an orphanage in Haiti. They photoshopped their name over a sign at the entrance of a legitimate humanitarian work. Fortunately, the fraudsters were caught and charged but hundreds of thousands of dollars never arrived at the donor’s desired destination.
As a donor you need to know where the money is going. If the fundraising appeal doesn’t specifically say so, ask. If the agency doesn’t respond with clear and specific answers, it’s possible it is just using the crisis opportunistically, hoping for a financial windfall.
There is a Christian organization in the States called Ministry Watch that has data on over 1000 different agencies that do relief work. I regret that some may stumble over the fact that they are Christian, but I do know the information they gather will help you give with the confidence that your investment will produce the greatest return.
Here are some of the most trusted agencies that are currently bringing relief to the disaster in Syria and Turkey.
International Disaster Emergency Service has been involved in disaster response for 50 years since its founding in 1973. It is partnering with groups in Turkey and Syria to provide assistance. Ministry Watch gives International Disaster Emergency Service a donor confidence score of 92 and an “A” transparency grade.
MAP International provides medicine and lifesaving health supplies to those in need, including following a natural disaster. According to its spokesperson, it has been working in the region for five years and has Interagency Emergency Health Kits which contain 90 days’ worth of medicines for 10,000 individuals ready to deploy. It will also continue to help through the recovery and rebuilding phase. MAP International was a 2021 Ministry Watch Shining Light Award winner and has the highest efficiency rating.
Partners Relief and Development has a history of doing relief work in Syria. It has teams in Aleppo, Jableh, and the Idlib region in Northern Syria as well as in Turkey near the Syrian border actively responding to the crisis. Rapid response teams were mobilized within 12 hours of the earthquake to help with the rescue. This organization has a high efficiency rating and has already committed $620,000 toward the relief crisis.
World Vision has responded to 69 disasters and emergencies in its history with its “first in, last out” approach. It has an excellent track record in its ongoing commitment to alleviate human suffering.
One final word: We first give ourselves in service and then our substance. Keep on giving and I’ll see you at the top.