Billions of Dollars in Donations Post-Katrina, Yet Very Little Relief

Aug 3, 2006 12:53pm

A year ago, Americans donated over $4 billion for Katrina relief. But a new report from a charity watchdog group warns that much of the money was used ineffectively, if at all. Trent Stamp, President of Charity Navigator, conducted the study.  Stamp traveled to the Gulf Coast to investigate the work of several charities, including the American Red Cross. He learned that Americans are a giving people in time of need, and the hustlers and con men know it. Stamp says one of the biggest mistakes made in the days after Katrina was that "charities just didn’t stick with what they do best."  Many charities tried to provide cash assistance and "in a lot of cases the cash ended up in the wrong hands."       What happened with Hurricane Katrina charities and fraud provides powerful lessons for future disaster relief.  Stamp reminds Americans looking to donate money toward relief efforts to avoid the newly formed charities in the days after a disaster. "I think you need to stick with the brand-names, those charities that have done this kind of work before — organizations like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Direct Relief International, Save the Children — those types of organizations." Yet Stamp also notes that even established charities, including the Red Cross, weren’t prepared for Hurricane Katrina. Local officials complained that the Red Cross was often missing from the worst hit areas and displaced residents found it impossible to get through on the hotlines. Red Cross officials have acknowledged that it was overwhelmed by the storm’s immensity. "We need to recognize that the next disaster is probably not going to be a hurricane and a levee break in New Orleans, but it’s going to be an earthquake in San Francisco or a fire in Chicago," said Stamp.  "So we need to learn from the past, but we need to make sure that we remember that the next disaster will be something different."

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