Why donate cash rather than goods in a crisis -some good thoughts from DFAIT

January 18, 2010 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: News, Canadian Charity Law, Global Giving, Ethics and Canadian Charities, Avoiding 'Charity' Scams

Here is some useful information from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs on why it is better to donate cash rather than goods during a disaster.

http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/humanitarian-humanitaire/canadians_help-aide_canadien.aspx


“Why should you donate cash instead of goods?

Because cash donations are quick, efficient and adaptable

•Cash donations are the fastest, most efficient way to get help to people living in a disaster zone. They allow relief agencies to purchase quickly supplies based on the specific needs of the affected population.
•Cash donations allow relief agencies to purchase goods and services in the affected country or neighbouring areas. Your financial contribution, in other words, is helping to 1) get aid to affected populations as quickly as possible, and 2) regenerate the local economy, which may have been seriously affected by the disaster.
•In most cases, it is more cost-effective to purchase goods locally than to airlift supplies from far away, as fuel and aircraft costs can be very high. In addition, local goods can be purchased in much less time than it takes to organize the logistics of an airlift from a distant country.
•Culturally familiar goods can respond to humanitarian needs, as well as provide a small sense of comfort or normalcy to traumatized and displaced populations, which foreign, unfamiliar goods may not.
Why do governments and relief agencies discourage donations of food, clothing and other goods?

Because cash donations are more useful

•Relief workers on the ground can lose valuable time sorting through unmarked or inaccurately labelled boxes of privately donated goods when the necessary supplies can be purchased locally and cheaply.
•Food, clothing and other goods may not be appropriate for the climate or the culture of the affected population. For example, survivors may need light-weight tents in the case of a hurricane in the summer, or winterized tents in the case of an earthquake in the winter.
•If goods donated by the Canadian public are not appropriate for a given crisis, they may end up not being used, but will have been expensive to transport to the affected region.
•In some parts of the world, items such as used clothing and blankets are subject to import regulations that call for fumigation, for instance. If the goods have not been processed accordingly, they can be refused entry into the affected country, clog up air- and seaports and thereby delay the processing and release of essential relief supplies. In other words, your well-intentioned goods may slow down the distribution of appropriate relief supplies in the affected country.
•Donations of out-of-date medicine and medical supplies can do more harm than good to the health and survival of an affected population. In addition, countries regulate the import of medicine; the medicines you send might be forbidden from passing through a country’s customs, and money will have been wasted in transporting them from Canada.
You have already collected goods that you want to donate. What should you do with them?

Be creative: turn them into cash donations Many Canadians have found creative ways to turn clothes, toys and other goods into cash donations. Below are just a couple of ideas that may help you:

•Organize a community garage sale, auction or raffle and donate all the proceeds to a recognized relief agency. Any left-over goods can be donated to a local charity or shelter.
•Use food donations to have a community potluck and have each person make a small cash donation for the food that they eat. The money can then be donated to a relief agency. If there are any non-perishable food items left over, donate them to a local soup kitchen.”


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Mark Blumberg is a lawyer at Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto, Ontario.  To find out more about legal services that Blumbergs provides to Canadian charities and non-profits please visit http://www.canadiancharitylaw.ca or http://www.globalphilanthropy.ca  Mark can be contacted at or at 416-361-1982.

This article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice. You should not act or abstain from acting based upon such information without first consulting a legal professional.

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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.

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