Don’t donate money to Japan

By Felix Salmon
March 14, 2011
Individuals are doing it, banks are doing it -- faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.

Please don't.

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Individuals are doing it, banks are doing it — faced with the horrific news and pictures from Japan, everybody wants to do something, and the obvious thing to do is to donate money to some relief fund or other.

Please don’t.

We went through this after the Haiti earthquake, and all of the arguments which applied there apply to Japan as well. Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. And as Matthew Bishop and Michael Green said last year, we are all better at responding to human suffering caused by dramatic, telegenic emergencies than to the much greater loss of life from ongoing hunger, disease and conflict. That often results in a mess of uncoordinated NGOs parachuting in to emergency areas with lots of good intentions, where a strategic official sector response would be much more effective. Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.

In the specific case of Japan, there’s all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new money. Money is not the bottleneck here: if money is needed, Japan can raise it. On top of that, it’s still extremely unclear how or where organizations like globalgiving intend on spending the money that they’re currently raising for Japan — so far we’re just told that the money “will help survivors and victims get necessary services,” which is basically code for “we have no idea what we’re going to do with the money, but we’ll probably think of something.”

Globalgiving, it’s worth pointing out, was created to support “projects in the developing world,” where lack of money is much more of a problem than it is in Japan. I’m not at all convinced that the globalgiving model can or should be applied directly to Japan, without much if any thought about whether it’s the best way to address the issues there.

That said, it’s entirely possible that organizations like the Red Cross or Save the Children will find themselves with important and useful roles to play in Japan. It’s also certain that they have important and useful roles to play elsewhere. So do give money to them — and give generously! And give money to other NGOs, too, like Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which don’t jump on natural disasters and use them as opportunistic marketing devices. Just make sure it’s unrestricted. The official MSF position is exactly right:

The ability of MSF teams to provide rapid and targeted medical care to those most in need in more than 60 countries around the world – whether in the media spotlight or not – depends on the generous general contributions of our donors worldwide. For this reason, MSF does not issue appeals for support for specific emergencies and this is why we do not include an area to specify a donation purpose on our on-line donation form. MSF would not have been able to act so swiftly in response to the emergency in Haiti, as an example, if not for the ongoing general support from our donors. So we always ask our supporters to consider making an unrestricted contribution.

I’ve just donated $400 in unrestricted funds to MSF. Some of it might go to Japan; all of it will go to areas where it’s sorely needed. I’d urge you to do the same, rather than try to target money at whichever disaster might be in the news today.

Update: Some bright spark has set up a “Socks for Japan” drive. I’m not making this up. I trust that none of my readers are silly enough to send socks to Japan, but this is a great indication of how wasteful a lot of well-intentioned giving can be.

Comments
323 comments so far

Ted Connolly is a lawyer in the Boston office of a large, international law firm, where he concentrates his legal practice in bankruptcy and finance law.
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Posted by MizanHassan | Report as abusive

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Posted by azaharsarker | Report as abusive

Don’t donate? Are you saying we didn’t need help in Katrina? Not everybody can up and leave the country to go physically help, so where are we then? Oh yes them printing billion and billions of dollars to help them after this distasters hurts everyone you dumb ass. Considering they are walstreet 2 of this world when they print more money, it affects the global economy. Oh but your a reporter so your opinion must be right. I feel like you’re an idiot who needs to be better informed for a reporter. Not juts posting other articles in your article… SO YES DON’T GIVE MONEY, HELP HURT THE GLOBAL ECONOMY GOOD POINT SIR! (dont get me wrong this comment is coming quite late but w/e)

Posted by Tmartin1147 | Report as abusive

Don’t donate? Are you saying we didn’t need help in Katrina? Not everybody can up and leave the country to go physically help, so where are we then? Oh yes them printing billion and billions of dollars to help them after this distasters hurts everyone you dumb ass. Considering they are walstreet 2 of this world when they print more money, it affects the global economy. Oh but your a reporter so your opinion must be right. I feel like you’re an idiot who needs to be better informed for a reporter. Not juts posting other articles in your article… SO YES DON’T GIVE MONEY, HELP HURT THE GLOBAL ECONOMY GOOD POINT SIR! (dont get me wrong this comment is coming quite late but w/e)

Posted by Tmartin1147 | Report as abusive

By the way the poeple who are saying we are wrong for arguing with Felix article are just as closed minded… your stuck on that one view and not looking at it from ours. Yes donating to any government is risky but in the past is has also been risky to donate to NGO’s. Why cant the money by the helicopter someone was stalking about in their comment? Serisouly people yes there people in need all the time, but they didnt just experience and earthquake of that magnitude, they dont have a radiation problem.

Posted by Tmartin1147 | Report as abusive

You can donate or help anyone you think really needs the money, there are many poor people who needs some guidance to be more successful in life.

Posted by jimi898 | Report as abusive

hello
I am from Macedonia Nikola Pismanovski I need financial
help
I MUST to pay five thousand euro
for my house unless you pay will stay on the street
please help
this is my phone number 38976874301
please contact me

Name of Beneficiary; PISHMANOVSKI NIKOLA
Beneficiary addres; PANDE ILKOVSKI 21 BITOLA R.MACEDONIA

IBAN; / MK07380672610504283

Bank of beneficiaru; ProCredit Bank, Macedonia
SWIFT; PRBUMK22XXX

Posted by pikiboy | Report as abusive

PLIS HELP

Posted by pikiboy | Report as abusive

Also, buy superior quality, manufactured goods from Japan instead of cheaper, inferior goods from elsewhere. It benefits both parties.

Posted by davidhales | Report as abusive

NEED MONEY FOR WIFE’S OPERATION
HELLO SIR,
PURUSHOTTULA ANAND KUMAR WORKING AS MECHANICAL
SUPERVISOR IN MANIHAMSA POWER PROJECTS LIMITED ON CONTRACT BASIS. .MY
WAGES ARE RS 8000 INR PER MONTH , I AM VERY POOR FAMILY PERSON ,MY
TOTAL SALARY IS SPENT ON MY WIFE ‘S MEDICAL PURPOSE AND ALSO
MAINTAINED FAMILY. MY WIFE HEALTH POSITION IS VERY CRITICAL BUT I
DON’T HAVE 5 LACKS RUPEES .DOCTOR’S TOLD THAT 3 MONTHS TIME IS GIVE
FOR DOING THE OPERATION .
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING THIS IS A REALLY TRUE OR ANY FAKE?
I WILL SUBMITTING MY WIFE’S ALL REPORTS AND ESTIMATION COST OF
OPERATION BILLS, AND MEDICAL BILLS ,. PLEASE TRUST ME . I NEED
FINANCIAL HELP .. IF ANY QUIRES REGARDING MY EMAIL PLEASE CONTACT MY
PHONE NUMBER IS +918895359647
( problem : spleen lever is growing more so doing the operation and
remove the spleen lever and add stunts.)this is major operation
PLEASE KINDLY SAVE ME MY WIFE I CAN’T SURVIVE WITH OUT MY WIFE THIS
MY REQUEST PLEASE HELP ME AND SAVE ME………………

MY CONTACT EMAIL : anandkumar4316@hotmail.com

Posted by p.anandkumar | Report as abusive

NEED MONEY FOR WIFE’S OPERATION
HELLO SIR,
PURUSHOTTULA ANAND KUMAR WORKING AS MECHANICAL
SUPERVISOR IN MANIHAMSA POWER PROJECTS LIMITED ON CONTRACT BASIS. .MY
WAGES ARE RS 8000 INR PER MONTH , I AM VERY POOR FAMILY PERSON ,MY
TOTAL SALARY IS SPENT ON MY WIFE ‘S MEDICAL PURPOSE AND ALSO
MAINTAINED FAMILY. MY WIFE HEALTH POSITION IS VERY CRITICAL BUT I
DON’T HAVE 5 LACKS RUPEES .DOCTOR’S TOLD THAT 3 MONTHS TIME IS GIVE
FOR DOING THE OPERATION .
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING THIS IS A REALLY TRUE OR ANY FAKE?
I WILL SUBMITTING MY WIFE’S ALL REPORTS AND ESTIMATION COST OF
OPERATION BILLS, AND MEDICAL BILLS ,. PLEASE TRUST ME . I NEED
FINANCIAL HELP .. IF ANY QUIRES REGARDING MY EMAIL PLEASE CONTACT MY
PHONE NUMBER IS +918895359647
( problem : spleen lever is growing more so doing the operation and
remove the spleen lever and add stunts.)this is major operation
PLEASE KINDLY SAVE ME MY WIFE I CAN’T SURVIVE WITH OUT MY WIFE THIS
MY REQUEST PLEASE HELP ME AND SAVE ME………………

MY CONTACT EMAIL : anandkumar4316@hotmail.com

Posted by p.anandkumar | Report as abusive

NEED MONEY FOR WIFE’S OPERATION
HELLO SIR,
PURUSHOTTULA ANAND KUMAR WORKING AS MECHANICAL
SUPERVISOR IN MANIHAMSA POWER PROJECTS LIMITED ON CONTRACT BASIS. .MY
WAGES ARE RS 8000 INR PER MONTH , I AM VERY POOR FAMILY PERSON ,MY
TOTAL SALARY IS SPENT ON MY WIFE ‘S MEDICAL PURPOSE AND ALSO
MAINTAINED FAMILY. MY WIFE HEALTH POSITION IS VERY CRITICAL BUT I
DON’T HAVE 5 LACKS RUPEES .DOCTOR’S TOLD THAT 3 MONTHS TIME IS GIVE
FOR DOING THE OPERATION .
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING THIS IS A REALLY TRUE OR ANY FAKE?
I WILL SUBMITTING MY WIFE’S ALL REPORTS AND ESTIMATION COST OF
OPERATION BILLS, AND MEDICAL BILLS ,. PLEASE TRUST ME . I NEED
FINANCIAL HELP .. IF ANY QUIRES REGARDING MY EMAIL PLEASE CONTACT MY
PHONE NUMBER IS +918895359647
( problem : spleen lever is growing more so doing the operation and
remove the spleen lever and add stunts.)this is major operation
PLEASE KINDLY SAVE ME MY WIFE I CAN’T SURVIVE WITH OUT MY WIFE THIS
MY REQUEST PLEASE HELP ME AND SAVE ME………………

MY CONTACT EMAIL : anandkumar4316@hotmail.com

Posted by p.anandkumar | Report as abusive

NEED MONEY FOR WIFE’S OPERATION
HELLO SIR,
PURUSHOTTULA ANAND KUMAR WORKING AS MECHANICAL
SUPERVISOR IN MANIHAMSA POWER PROJECTS LIMITED ON CONTRACT BASIS. .MY
WAGES ARE RS 8000 INR PER MONTH , I AM VERY POOR FAMILY PERSON ,MY
TOTAL SALARY IS SPENT ON MY WIFE ‘S MEDICAL PURPOSE AND ALSO
MAINTAINED FAMILY. MY WIFE HEALTH POSITION IS VERY CRITICAL BUT I
DON’T HAVE 5 LACKS RUPEES .DOCTOR’S TOLD THAT 3 MONTHS TIME IS GIVE
FOR DOING THE OPERATION .
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING THIS IS A REALLY TRUE OR ANY FAKE?
I WILL SUBMITTING MY WIFE’S ALL REPORTS AND ESTIMATION COST OF
OPERATION BILLS, AND MEDICAL BILLS ,. PLEASE TRUST ME . I NEED
FINANCIAL HELP .. IF ANY QUIRES REGARDING MY EMAIL PLEASE CONTACT MY
PHONE NUMBER IS +918895359647
( problem : spleen lever is growing more so doing the operation and
remove the spleen lever and add stunts.)this is major operation
PLEASE KINDLY SAVE ME MY WIFE I CAN’T SURVIVE WITH OUT MY WIFE THIS
MY REQUEST PLEASE HELP ME AND SAVE ME………………

MY CONTACT EMAIL : anandkumar4316@hotmail.com

Posted by p.anandkumar | Report as abusive

NEED MONEY FOR WIFE’S OPERATION
HELLO SIR,
PURUSHOTTULA ANAND KUMAR WORKING AS MECHANICAL
SUPERVISOR IN MANIHAMSA POWER PROJECTS LIMITED ON CONTRACT BASIS. .MY
WAGES ARE RS 8000 INR PER MONTH , I AM VERY POOR FAMILY PERSON ,MY
TOTAL SALARY IS SPENT ON MY WIFE ‘S MEDICAL PURPOSE AND ALSO
MAINTAINED FAMILY. MY WIFE HEALTH POSITION IS VERY CRITICAL BUT I
DON’T HAVE 5 LACKS RUPEES .DOCTOR’S TOLD THAT 3 MONTHS TIME IS GIVE
FOR DOING THE OPERATION .
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING THIS IS A REALLY TRUE OR ANY FAKE?
I WILL SUBMITTING MY WIFE’S ALL REPORTS AND ESTIMATION COST OF
OPERATION BILLS, AND MEDICAL BILLS ,. PLEASE TRUST ME . I NEED
FINANCIAL HELP .. IF ANY QUIRES REGARDING MY EMAIL PLEASE CONTACT MY
PHONE NUMBER IS +918895359647
( problem : spleen lever is growing more so doing the operation and
remove the spleen lever and add stunts.)this is major operation
PLEASE KINDLY SAVE ME MY WIFE I CAN’T SURVIVE WITH OUT MY WIFE THIS
MY REQUEST PLEASE HELP ME AND SAVE ME………………

MY CONTACT EMAIL : anandkumar4316@hotmail.com

Posted by p.anandkumar | Report as abusive

Scream of a stranded family

I had a brilliant college student stranded. I’ve studied on Accounting Issues. I’d like to read ca. I have a good job with the passing of ca. CA had the opportunity to read, but the money needed for reading my family has ($5000) of that money. ‘ve Spent quite a hardship in the lives of students leaving the past. Only extra-time job and private tuitions to pay back the money by himself and his family came to this. We are two brothers and two sisters. Father did not have parents. And she needs better treatment Asusha him. My younger sister is studying in the Computer Science subject’s eyes suddenly a problem has arisen. Doctor says its better to treatment. The younger brother of the bones of disease cancer Aaffected. Everyone fairly offer cooperation treatment. The doctor said it would be a long-term treatment. The younger sister of the technical college studies. I have all the family. The whole family is depending on me. I think the problem is that the earth and all the dangers of this family. Everyone needs emergency treatment. Lack of funds can not be treated. What is the earth that man has no self goodheart ? For a little money to Risky Families in this sector.

This extreme danger capacity argue to protect my family. You’ve come to the aid. If people are to people. Of course this is an extreme danger if it is true, I will help by donate me money. If you give me at least one coin in the penetrate much for me. Now that’s no way to collect the money needed urgent not signs. Disturabance in the goverment found the right way do it again. Eager to apply all of you. Sector behind me money if my family will benefit too. Let me wish all of you the money behind a sector. I can not wait to jump on this earth is related to the family….

Thanksgiving
Wretched Beings
Contact Address ;—
helplessbeing@yahoo.com

Posted by WRETCHD | Report as abusive

Scream of a stranded family

I had a brilliant college student stranded. I’ve studied on Accounting Issues. I’d like to read ca. I have a good job with the passing of ca. CA had the opportunity to read, but the money needed for reading my family has ($5000) of that money. ‘ve Spent quite a hardship in the lives of students leaving the past. Only extra-time job and private tuitions to pay back the money by himself and his family came to this. We are two brothers and two sisters. Father did not have parents. And she needs better treatment Asusha him. My younger sister is studying in the Computer Science subject’s eyes suddenly a problem has arisen. Doctor says its better to treatment. The younger brother of the bones of disease cancer Aaffected. Everyone fairly offer cooperation treatment. The doctor said it would be a long-term treatment. The younger sister of the technical college studies. I have all the family. The whole family is depending on me. I think the problem is that the earth and all the dangers of this family. Everyone needs emergency treatment. Lack of funds can not be treated. What is the earth that man has no self goodheart ? For a little money to Risky Families in this sector.

This extreme danger capacity argue to protect my family. You’ve come to the aid. If people are to people. Of course this is an extreme danger if it is true, I will help by donate me money. If you give me at least one coin in the penetrate much for me. Now that’s no way to collect the money needed urgent not signs. Disturabance in the goverment found the right way do it again. Eager to apply all of you. Sector behind me money if my family will benefit too. Let me wish all of you the money behind a sector. I can not wait to jump on this earth is related to the family….

Thanksgiving
Wretched Beings
Contact Address ;—
helplessbeing@yahoo.com

Posted by WRETCHD | Report as abusive

Scream of a stranded family

I had a brilliant college student stranded. I’ve studied on Accounting Issues. I’d like to read ca. I have a good job with the passing of ca. CA had the opportunity to read, but the money needed for reading my family has ($5000) of that money. ‘ve Spent quite a hardship in the lives of students leaving the past. Only extra-time job and private tuitions to pay back the money by himself and his family came to this. We are two brothers and two sisters. Father did not have parents. And she needs better treatment Asusha him. My younger sister is studying in the Computer Science subject’s eyes suddenly a problem has arisen. Doctor says its better to treatment. The younger brother of the bones of disease cancer Aaffected. Everyone fairly offer cooperation treatment. The doctor said it would be a long-term treatment. The younger sister of the technical college studies. I have all the family. The whole family is depending on me. I think the problem is that the earth and all the dangers of this family. Everyone needs emergency treatment. Lack of funds can not be treated. What is the earth that man has no self goodheart ? For a little money to Risky Families in this sector.

This extreme danger capacity argue to protect my family. You’ve come to the aid. If people are to people. Of course this is an extreme danger if it is true, I will help by donate me money. If you give me at least one coin in the penetrate much for me. Now that’s no way to collect the money needed urgent not signs. Disturabance in the goverment found the right way do it again. Eager to apply all of you. Sector behind me money if my family will benefit too. Let me wish all of you the money behind a sector. I can not wait to jump on this earth is related to the family….

Thanksgiving
Wretched Beings
Contact Address ;—
helplessbeing@yahoo.com

Posted by WRETCHD | Report as abusive

Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

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