31 August 2005

To do today: 1) Get in canoe. 2) Deliver clue.

This morning I was scanning a new website that was created as a place for bulletins about Hurricane Katrina, and I saw that someone had posted a message along these lines: "Hi from New Orleans! We're creating a new foundation to help victims of Katrina. Here's our phone number, give us a call if you need anything."

I wish that someone would hop into a canoe, and paddle over to these well-meaning but ignorant people, and give them a few clues:

  1. New Orleans is under martial law right now. This is not the moment to attempt to incorporate a nonprofit agency, open a bank account, apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status, etc.

  2. Not even the American Red Cross, a well-established agency with trained personnel and steady funding, dares to offer a carte blanche such as "give us a call if you need anything" during a major disaster.

  3. If the reports I read are reliable, two of the many things that most people in New Orleans lack right now are phone service and transportation. They won't be able to call you, and you won't be able to deliver services to them.
It's not that agencies such as the Red Cross and FEMA are above criticism in the ways that they handle disasters and humanitarian crises - but those clueless idealists should wake up and smell the coffee! It takes years to establish the funding, training, and infrastructure needed to do even a mediocre job.

Creating a disaster relief agency actually requires forethought.

3 comments:

Charlie said...

How dare those assholes try to help people. There's entrenched interests for that!

Alan said...

I feel vaguely dirty for even bothering to point this out, but it seems like you are missing the point charlie.

There, now time to shower.

NonprofitCurmudgeon said...

Wanting to help people is beautiful and wonderful, and I don't mean to denigrate that. However, in a life-or-death situation such as Hurrican Katrina, it's not enough. You also need common sense and advance preparation. Therefore (with apologies to E.M. Forster), I say, "Two cheers for the entrenched interests."