Hurricane relief and nonprofit transparency

Like many Floridians, I am nursing a bit of survivor’s guilt about Hurricane Dorian and the Bahamas. If Dorian had not lingered for so long over the Bahamas, Florida likely would have received a much harder hit from the storm.

I have seen a lot of efforts here to provide assistance to folks in the Bahamas, which is not surprising. The Bahamas are less than a day’s trip by boat from the coast here, and our cultures are thoroughly intertwined. Just today, we were at an ice cream parlor where they were giving a fraction of their revenues to aid the Bahamas. That’s a theme in businesses up and down the A1A.

But I am hearing other stories as well. We ordered a safe for our home this week, and one of the chaps delivering it had been a military contractor for a while and still has friends doing similar work. He said that after the hurricane, many of these ex-military folk were traveling to the Bahamas in their own boats and planes, bringing food and other supplies to help people out. He said the government there was turning them all away. One of them even received a citation as a business interest for landing there. I was stunned. In the US, when the likes of the Cajun Navy shows up after a storm, no one ever turns them away. In the US, the Coast Guard recruits civilians and their boats for search and rescue missions.

This is the second time in recent memory where hurricane relief seemed to be overwhelmed by corrupt dealings (the other is Puerto Rico, which has involved indictments). It makes me wonder where all of this money being raised by charities is even going.

When you donate money to an established charity with a mission that may be urgent, but not as incredibly urgent as hurricane relief, you have a whole lot of transparency. But are standards lowered when a charity has raised a bunch of money quickly and has to demonstrate it going somewhere? How do you even make an intelligent decision in this context?

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