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Who Should We Give Our Katrina Money To?

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I gave some money to the Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I didn’t see them in the affected areas though. That was about day four. I did see a Salvation Army official. He said that they had a feeding station and, I think, referred to many others. Then recently I saw the head of the Red Cross saying that they were “asked” to stay out of the affected area by FEMA, and obediently did so. This is when people were without water, food or medical supplies.

I remember the tsunami. I watched to see who was there first, on the ground, working. In that case it was Oxfam and Mercy Malaysia, so that’s who I gave my money to. They were there before, or simultaneously with, CNN. The Red Cross eventually did get there but they weren’t the first to set up. Not this time either. I don’t know that much about it, but I have to be honest; I’m troubled by this.

I’m not an expert but I want to start a discussion of who we should give our money to to most effectively help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. If you have any experience or local knowledge, I’d like to hear it. Are any relief organizations helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina right now? Who? What are they doing? What‘s the source of your knowledge?

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  • I’ve worked in development aid in Asia, so have some general comments. The Red Cross is the “official”, pretty well universally recognised, organisation. This puts constraints on its workers, in that they are more likely, have to be more likely, to obey official directives such as the one to which you refer.

    The more “freelance” agencies can be more self-directed, sometimes confrontational with governments.

    In Asia and more stricken parts of the world one of the first organisations there is usually Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). Oxfam won’t be far behind.

    While in many cases there is over-provision and waste in too many agencies, there are different roles for the “first-arrrivers”, risk-taking groups, versus the slower but more official groups. They each have a place.

  • Red Cross and Salvation Army both have offices/facilities in New Orleans. Maybe should say, had, since we don’t know what shape they’re in.

    Both organizations concentrate a lot more in the early days on getting aid to the victims. Only after the initial efforts reach a certain point, is there time for “official” statements, making sure aid workers all have their arm-bands on, etc.

    Think of the thousands of unoffical aid workers who flooded into New York City in the wake of 9/11 – the Red Cross was certainly there, but the “average guy” was often who showed up on the TV news.

    Drama vs. reality. If it really troubles you, why not donate to both?

  • For those who care, I’m donating to the Red Cross rather than the Salvation Army, because aside from disaster relief the Salvation Army tends to attach religious strings to their charity, as well as having a history of really horribly mismanaging the resources they have at their shelters.


  • Yeah, I was concerned about the Salvation Army’s preaching at people. I don’t know if they still do that. Anyone know?

    A relative was cured of horrible cocaine addiction after years of it, by going through the Salvation Army’s residential drug treatment. He had to live there for a year. He never took another drug again. So that was impressive.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience Natalie.

  • The Amish Hitman

    “Salvation Army tends to attach religious strings to their charity, as well as having a history of really horribly mismanaging the resources they have at their shelters.”

    Amen to that Dave…..I could tell you some stories.

  • Please do, if you feel like it.

  • chuck

    The Salvation Army is a great orgranization that does not have strings attached to everything it does.

    First off, they use preaching as an effective way to heal people. Its funny how people are God-bashers until something bad happens . .. then who are they down on their knees praying to?

    It just so happens that The Salvation Army uses God in all they do. They have very successful shelters and The salvation Army has one of the highest rates of success with detox. On top of that, The Salvation Army has one of the lowest overhead costs then any other major non-profit.

    You want proof of this? How about this. The Salvation Army is actually the #1 non profit world wide, not the red cross, like so many of you think. The reason you dont know that is that the salvation army does not pay tons of money into advertisements.

    Im sure there are bad things you can say about the salvation army. Heck, you can find fault in every organization. but compare budgets and how much is spent ON people needing help and the compassion given and you will see the salvation army is in the lead.

    Who was asked to go to Iraq? Who was the only non profit allowed in the closed sites of 9/11? Who used 100% of all donations for 9/11 for 9/11? The Salvation Army. Not the Red Cross.

    When it comes to things like this, The Salvation Army gives help to everyone with no strings attached. They do not force people to listen to a sermon before giving them food or helping with rent or anything else.

    The Salvation Army does use God in its detox programs and you know what . . . they raise every cent they get. Not to mention that the people pick the salvation army to go to by choice. They are forced to go to a detox program and they pick the salvation army.

  • I read that the CEO of the the Salvation Army gets $12,000 a year plus housing. Don’t know if it’s true but I read that.

    Well, the good they do is welcome but foisting their particular religious belief on someone in need is anathema to me and to many people. So far I’ve given to two charities, the Red Cross and Oxfam America, but have held up on the Salvation Army, although I’m tempted to give them. The religious thing has stopped me so far. I’m not Christian. My family background is Jewish but I am sympathetic to earth religions now and I don’t want to feed into a relief organization that foists Christianity on people at their most vulnerable.

    I’d like to hear more detailed descriptions of how they employ religion and counseling in their relief efforts. I’m sorry that they use it in their detox programs, if they do, although I do have a relative that was cured of serious drug addiction by a residential treatment program they run. If anyone knows firsthand how they employ religion in their relief efforts, let us know.

    I think one of the reasons the Red Cross is able to out fundraise the Salvation Army is people’s reluctance to contribute to a charity that might foist it’s own religious beliefs on people in need. Even a low key religious presence would be viewed as coercive to cold, wet, hungry people. I think that that aspect of their efforts has to go.

    I’m also not happy with the Red Cross and FEMA not allowing pets in their shelters. I think that pets should be allowed by law everywhere in a disaster. To do otherwise is just wrong.

    In general I do appreciate the efforts of the relief organizations. I just think we need to look at what needs changing.

  • nick

    hi i have read the stroies i was out side when the 9/11 attack many people fell out of the bulider

  • SArmy Lover

    The CEO of Salvation Army gets $12,000 and housing whil the red cross CEO gets nearly $600,000! I think the Salvation Army is the better of the two.