Partners In Health/Stand With Haiti

Stand With Haiti

The rules are simple:

  1. Select a charity that is soliciting donations for aid in Haiti.
  2. Apply your HR and social media skills by doing a “back­ground check” on that orga­ni­za­tion.
  3. Write up your find­ings, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, and post them on your blog no later than Jan­u­ary 26th.

So asked Mike VanDervort, friend and fellow HR blogger, in his blog The Human Racehorses.

Sometimes, though, it is okay to color outside of the lines.  So I changed the rules.  I changed them because I didn’t want to pick a charity and research it.  I wanted needed to find a charity that I could be comfortable sending more than a $10 text message to – and I wanted the best.  The new rules?

  1. Pretend you are creating a new job position called Haitian charity.
  2. Undertake a needs assessment; determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities the charity must have to be successful and worthy of “hiring”.
  3. Research charities until you determine the perfect candidate.
  4. Hire the candidate charity by writing your findings in a blog and sending them the most sizable donation you can muster.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT

Experience is the usually the best teacher, so I looked back at the Indian Ocean tsunamis of 2004.  I studied white papers, blogs, and news articles to see what I could learn about the effectiveness of charitable organizations in dealing with that disaster, and what types of problems all charitable organizations faced (examples here and here ).

After that research, it became clear to me that those non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that already had operations running in the affected area were the most efficient and effective performers. These NGOs already have committed people on the ground, have overcome language and culture barriers,  have established contacts and connections with local vendors, and will remain engaged with the country on a long term basis. This became my main requirement for my charity: Long term commitment to Haiti that preceded the January 12 earthquake, evidenced by established operations.

The next skill is pretty basic: how much money goes to actual operational support, as opposed to administrative and fund-raising expenses? Research showed me that an organization that spends 80% of the donations it receives on charitable programs is considered efficient, while 90% is considered highly efficient.  I always want the best I can get, so my additional requirement became: Program spending of 90% or greater.

FINDING THE CANDIDATE

One of the most important tools I used to research and find the ideal charity candidate was Charity Navigator.  Itself an independent, non-profit that helps evaluate and promote charitable giving, they were so helpful that I found myself donating to them after finishing my research.  There were many four-star rated charities with long-term Haitian ground operations, including Save the Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres (the international parent of  Doctors without Borders).  In the end, I decided  on Partners In Health/Stand With Haiti.

Partners In Health(PIH) has been working on the ground in Haiti since 1985.  Their Zanmi Lasante (“partners in health”) project in Cange, Haiti is a community based health project that has grown to include 8 facilities in central Haiti.  They are devoted to providing medical services to Haitian poor.  PIH believes that health care is a right that should be available to everyone. Their vision is “whatever it takes”:

The PIH Vision: Whatever it takes
At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services. Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.

Almost 95% of their funds go to program expenses.  If you go to Charity Navigator and look at the salaries of their top executives, you will understand why they are able to devote so much funding to their programs.

I wanted the best, and I think I found it.

PARTNERS IN HEALTH/STAND WITH HAITI

Stand With Haiti

The rules are simple:

  1. Select a charity that is soliciting donations for aid in Haiti.
  2. Apply your HR and social media skills by doing a “back­ground check” on that orga­ni­za­tion.
  3. Write up your find­ings, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, and post them on your blog no later than Jan­u­ary 26th.

So asked Mike VanDervort, friend and fellow HR blogger, in his blog The Human Racehorses.

Sometimes, though, it is okay to color outside of the lines.  So I changed the rules.  I changed them because I didn’t want to pick a charity and research it.  I wanted needed to find a charity that I could be comfortable sending more than a $10 text message to – and I wanted the best.  The new rules?

  1. Pretend you are creating a new job position called Haitian charity.
  2. Undertake a needs assessment; determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities the charity must have to be successful and worthy of “hiring”.
  3. Research charities until you determine the perfect candidate.
  4. Hire the candidate charity by writing your findings in a blog and sending them the most sizable donation you can muster.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT

Experience is the usually the best teacher, so I looked back at the Indian Ocean tsunamis of 2004.  I studied white papers, blogs, and news articles to see what I could learn about the effectiveness of charitable organizations in dealing with that disaster, and what types of problems all charitable organizations faced (examples here and here ).

After that research, it became clear to me that those non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that already had operations running in the affected area were the most efficient and effective performers. These NGOs already have committed people on the ground, have overcome language and culture barriers,  have established contacts and connections with local vendors, and will remain engaged with the country on a long term basis. This became my main requirement for my charity: Long term commitment to Haiti that preceded the January 12 earthquake, evidenced by established operations.

The next skill is pretty basic: how much money goes to actual operational support, as opposed to administrative and fund-raising expenses? Research showed me that an organization that spends 80% of the donations it receives on charitable programs is considered efficient, while 90% is considered highly efficient.  I always want the best I can get, so my additional requirement became: Program spending of 90% or greater.

FINDING THE CANDIDATE

One of the most important tools I used to research and find the ideal charity candidate was Charity Navigator.  Itself an independent, non-profit that helps evaluate and promote charitable giving, they were so helpful that I found myself donating to them after finishing my research.  There were many four-star rated charities with long-term Haitian ground operations, including Save the Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres (the international parent of  Doctors without Borders).  In the end, I decided  on Partners In Health/Stand With Haiti.

Partners In Health(PIH) has been working on the ground in Haiti since 1985.  Their Zanmi Lasante (“partners in health”) project in Cange, Haiti is a community based health project that has grown to include 8 facilities in central Haiti.  They are devoted to providing medical services to Haitian poor.  PIH believes that health care is a right that should be available to everyone. Their vision is “whatever it takes”:

The PIH Vision: Whatever it takes
At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. When a person in Peru, or Siberia, or rural Haiti falls ill, PIH uses all of the means at our disposal to make them well—from pressuring drug manufacturers, to lobbying policy makers, to providing medical care and social services. Whatever it takes. Just as we would do if a member of our own family—or we ourselves—were ill.

Almost 95% of their funds go to program expenses.  If you go to Charity Navigator and look at the salaries of their top executives, you will understand why they are able to devote so much funding to their programs.

I wanted the best, and I think I found it.

News Content – Who's the Boss?

This post really begins at a different blog:  Laurie Ruettiman’s  Punk Rock HR.  On January 15, 2010, on her weekly F@%k It Friday series. she posted a blog called Pat Robertson, Haiti, and The Devil. Her blog contained this video.

This blog and video generated a lively response of comments, including one from me:

Pat Robertson is entitled to his opinion in America, and he is even entitled to express his opinion without unnecessary government intervention, a la the First Amendment. Put a video out on You Tube? Go for it, Pat.

What he is NOT entitled to under our governmental system is to have anyone give a crap about what he says. The fact that he has a video being played over and over again on the news programs (at least I presume it is – I don’t watch television and I first saw this video on this blog) is the fault of news media decision makers who have decided that what Pat Robertson says is important.

I have several videos on YouTube and no one cares. (Well, maybe @BillBoorman does. A little.) I could stand on my street corner all day long and yell the same ridiculous things about Haiti as Pat Robertson, but I doubt that even my local news media would show up.

So I don’t hate Pat Robertson. I hate the CEO of any ersatz news program that has replayed that drivel and called it news, because the decisions of their company is their responsibility, and those decisions are why I even know who Pat Robertson is.

Now Laurie is always generous and thoughtful, responding to all comments on her blog.  This is what she said about my comment:

@JoanGinsberg – yup, you’re exactly right, the media have a huge part to play in people like PR consistently having a soapbox from which to shout stupid, stupid things. However, you’ve also got to put some of the accountability on audiences – PR gets on the news because when he’s on the news, ratings (and revenue) go up. For whatever reason, people listen PR – either because they think he’s a tool and want to hear what kind of tool-like thing he’s going to say next or because they *shudder* agree with him. Either way, he’s on TV because people demand that he be on tv (i.e., implicitly, by watching whenever he’s on), not just because network execs want to force him on us.

After all, TV networks and producers (of news or entertainment, etc.) are not in the business of providing audiences with content, they’re in the business of selling audiences to advertisers. TV shows aren’t their product, you are.

I hope I still have your attention after all of this back story, because what I really want to do right now is discuss Laurie’s reply.

While I don’t dispute the idea that television viewers/consumers are accountable for the content that is created, I maintain that consumers are far less responsible for NEWS content than entertainment content. I will lay ALL of the blame at the feet of consumers when it comes to entertainment, but I’m a lot less sure of audience responsibility when it comes to news content.

Let’s face it, every person in the United States could have called MSNBC on January 2 and said, “Hey, we want you to cover a natural disaster that causes massive destruction and death.  Maybe an earthquake in Haiti.  Within 10 days, please.”  That quake in Haiti, and the resultant news coverage, didn’t happen because audiences asked for it.  No matter how great the consumer demand, and the resultant high viewer percentages to sell to advertisers, the news content has to come first.  Without that content, the news media can’t produce any product.

Al-Qaeda and other extremist terrorist organizations know this all too well.  Their opinions don’t get any airplay from new organizations until they bomb buildings or blow up airplanes.  So they create the content for the TV executives and producers to put on their newscasts. Without that content, the viewers neither know or care about Al-Qaeda’s message.  That content is chosen by the TV and other media executives, and then the audience responds.

Yes, the public, or some degree of it, cares about what Pat Robertson thinks about Haiti, even if it is just to hiss and boo his message.  But the public only cares because – as the children say when they have been caught misbehaving – the other guy ( news organizations) started it.

There was a great movie made while back that satirized this very problem.   “Wag the Dog” is about White House spin doctors hiring a Hollywood director to create a war.  In the movie, news content was CREATED  to control the public demand for certain news.   The movie may have been fiction, but I think it was based, as great satires are, on fact.  That, in my book, is the essence of corporate irresponsibility.

What do you think?  Who should bear the responsibility for inane or irrelevant news content?