Can Do-It-Yourselfers outperform the “big boys” on Haiti disaster relief?

in Fundraising,Grassroots Fundraising,News

There’s a debate on that question in a Washington Post article by the Associated Press (AP), “2 aid efforts in Haiti: Multinational and DIY”

It centers around how quickly – or not so quickly – large nonprofit orgs are getting temporary shelter to the earthquake victims in Haiti.  With the rainy season fast approaching, shelter is a top priority for the people and the government.  Seven weeks have passed since the earthquake and only about a third of the people who need shelter have received it.

Two “DIY” examples from the AP article follow:

1.  A property developer from Miami put up a “…proper [tent] camp for hundreds of families on the soccer field of a gated community of luxury villas. It took him three days and less than $5,000.”

This developer “found a Miami company offering a waterproof tent for five, the average size of a family in Haiti, for $90 including ground sheets, poles and mosquito nets. Then he found another that asked $37.05 per tent – including shipping to Haiti – if he’d buy 50,000 of them.”

2.  A church group from Atlanta collected 1,505 donated tents to shelter 7,525 people plus $24,185

The volunteer DIY people say they can move faster, cheaper and more efficiently than the large NGO’s.  They also criticize that the large nonprofit orgs are “…inefficient and confused.”

ShelterBoxUSA has tent kits for a 10-member family at $1,000 per tent kit.  Veronica Miller, president of ShelterBoxUSA, said, Our “…kit includes a multipurpose blanket, water purification kit, stove and cooking pots – as well as the cost of securing permission to use land and coordinating who gets help first.”  She added that the tents are designed to last for years.

Many organizations, including GuideStar, think that relief efforts on the scale needed in Haiti are best left to the experts.  Now, to some extent we’re comparing apples and oranges in this debate. Nonetheless the problem remains that Haiti needs serious amounts of help fast!

What do you think?  Are the large nonprofits bogged down in bureaucracy, inefficient, and too slow?  Does Haiti need more help from Do-It-Yourselfers?