The Carmel Fire & Haiti: No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

"Fighting the fire in Israel's North, 3.12.10" by The Prime Minister of IsraelJews around the globe are mobilizing to donate to help fight the effects of the recent fire in Israel’s Carmel Forest.

One of the outcomes of the Haiti Earthquake (January 12, 2010) is an in-depth case study in disaster-relief giving. Hence, those donating to Carmel Fire relief efforts need not reinvent the wheel and can rely on the many lessons learned just 11 months ago.

Money is not the Impediment

In response to the Haiti disaster in January 2010, The Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) wrote in an article entitled, “Don’t Give to Haiti Now”:

Money is not the impediment to getting aid to Haiti right now…they need military and security forces to help organize rescue, logistics and transport and security operations.

While on a much smaller scale, the same logic holds true for Israel.

The recovery and rebuilding efforts do not exist in a vacuum; without certain guarantees and logistics in place, money alone will not be effective. (Just look at the Interior Ministry’s refusal to accept fire trucks from certain charities. The money was there but the trucks were never bought.)

Plan for the Long Term

With nearly half of the Carmel Forest destroyed (about 37,000 acres) and rehabilitation efforts expected to take years — if not decades — donations will be needed for far longer than just the upcoming months.

SSIR went on to write that

The rebuilding effort survives over the long term, donors need to stagger their funding and guarantee it over many years, instead of sending the money all at once…For Haiti, my advice is this: set aside money now for what you would give Haiti this year and for at least the next 3 years. Give money when aid can logistically get there, when efforts get coordinated, when you can get reports on which nonprofits are doing what and which ones are actually on the ground making an impact.

Research Before Giving

1. Prior Experience

Prior experience working in a particular geographic area or a particular field is crucial in making sure that donors get the biggest bang for their buck (or shekel) — whether on the island of Haiti or in the State of Israel.

After the Haiti Quake, for example, The Miami Herald provided a link to a database that listed the charities assisting after the disaster and if these organizations had prior experience working in Haiti.

2. Needs Most Dire

Additionally, with a country as small as Israel, popular news outlets can provide the necessary research into what needs are the most dire — and there will be many. For, example, The New York Daily News article, “How to Make Donations to Haiti Wisely” stressed that large disasters will required both “disaster relief and extensive assistance to rebuild.”

3. Donor Advisers

It is important to mention that the Haiti disaster also saw consultants play an important role; likewise, donors to the Carmel Fire relief shouldn’t shy away from advisers to help them “structure effective support.” (Investment News)

Give Cash, Not In-kind Donations

If a donor has taken the time to vet a charity, he or she should trust the organization to use the donations as it deems wise.

Furthermore, in-kind donations — food, diapers, clothing etc — cannot always be used or might have already been purchased. Donors outside of Israel should also realize that Israeli charities are charged import tariffs even on donated goods. Not to mentioned the trouble sometimes with getting goods through customs. (Read this JPost article for more information on Israeli nonprofits and import tax.)

Additional problems connected with in-kind donations were elaborated upon by these international aid bloggers after the Haiti Earthquake: Good Intentions & Aid Watch.

Closing Words…

The Haiti Disaster, observed Tactical Philanthropy, marked a “turning point in American philanthropy where donors are now expected to ‘give smart,’ not just give.”

It is my hope that this still holds true — not just for Americans, but for donors worldwide.

Tizku Lemitzvot,


Related Posts: NonprofitBanker Video Blog: Haiti & Relevant Donor Strategy

N.B. The articles in The Miami Herald, The Daily News, Good Intentions, and Aid Watch are credited to the Tactical Philanthropy post, where I first read of them and found their links.

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