Unlike many other nonprofit organizations, Direct Relief does not rely on any funding from government grants. Our support comes entirely from private individuals, associations, foundations, and businesses who entrust us with resources so that we can fulfill our humanitarian mission.
All funds we have received for specific tragedies have been devoted entirely to those events. We have absorbed all administrative costs to honor the intent of donors who restricted their contributions while ensuring disaster victims receive the fullest measure of assistance possible. This has left us with a challenge – to cover the costs of our already lean general operations.
By clarifying that we may use your contribution wherever most needed, you allow us to strengthen the long-term health systems that are vital to vulnerable people around the world and respond to emergencies that do not receive widespread attention. We commit to spend your money in the most productive, efficient way possible.
If you wish to restrict the use of your donation only for a specific purpose or area, we will honor that wish or inform you that we cannot and offer to return your contribution. We have not and will not collect money for what may appear to be a specific incident or purpose with the intention of using it for other purposes.
Learn more about our past disaster donation policies:
Direct Relief relies on charitable contributions to conduct humanitarian assistance throughout the United States and globally. In the outpouring of generosity and offers of assistance in the aftermath of catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan, Direct Relief wishes to note its policy regarding donor-designated contributions as it has done in previous high-profile emergencies (such as Hurricane Sandy last year, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake) that also have generated significant financial support.
Direct Relief’s policy regarding designated contributions for Typhoon Haiyan is simple: Direct Relief will use all contributions designated for “Typhoon Relief” or “Typhoon Haiyan” solely for relief and recovery efforts related to the Typhoon.
Direct Relief practices have long recognized the importance of enabling donors to communicate their intentions regarding donations and explaining how the organization carefully accounts for and uses designated contributions to honor the donors’ intentions. Direct Relief takes several steps to ensure that both donors’ intentions and the organization’s use of contributions are clear.
Ensuring Donor Intent: To ensure that donors communicate their intention regarding a gift, we note that Direct Relief’s online donation page requires that donors consider the options of “wherever needed most” or to designate their gifts by choosing from a dropdown menu that includes “Typhoon Haiyan Relief” as the first item among several other particular activities or areas in which Direct Relief works and to which donors may also elect to restrict their gift. Other methods of contributions, such as by check or wire transfer that include a “typhoon” or “Haiyan” or similar notation in the check memo line or accompanying correspondence also will be considered as instruction to restrict the gift for this particular response effort.
Detailed Accounting for Typhoon Funds: An internal fund is created with all designated contributions, and all expenditures related to the typhoon response are recorded for both internal management and external reporting purposes. Independently audited financial statements are prepared and published annually, but Direct Relief will share current information on its website as events unfold regarding programmatic activities and expenditures.
No Typhoon Funds are Used for Fundraising Expenses: 100% of Direct Relief’s fundraising expenses are paid by a bequest. This means that no portion of any Typhoon contribution (or any other contribution) will be used for fundraising purposes.
What Restricted Funds May be Used For: Typhoon contributions will be used only for typhoon-related programmatic costs and administrative expenses directly related to the typhoon activity. Programmatic costs include those related to purchasing, storing, transporting, and distributing essential medical material to affected areas and the costs of programmatic staff and related travel for typhoon relief-assistance functions. Directly-related administrative expenses include credit-card processing fees associated with the receipt of typhoon contributions; accounting fees associated with managing typhoon funds; postage related to issuing receipts to typhoon donors; banking fees related to wire transfers of typhoon donations; warehousing and packaging of medical material; and IT support costs that are necessary to conduct typhoon-related programmatic activity (such as inventory management of medical material being provided in the relief effort).
General, unrestricted financial support is essential for Direct Relief to fulfill any of its deeply compelling humanitarian activities, including being able to respond rapidly to any emergency as the organization has done in Typhoon Haiyan. Such unrestricted contributions always are needed, deeply appreciated, and enable Direct Relief to assist people in many places and situations that do not make the news.
However, Direct Relief is obligated to – and will always – honor the intent of a donor-designated financial contribution, including, obviously, in this instance with regard to Typhoon Haiyan contributions. If a donor were to make a clearly restricted gift for a purpose or with a restriction that Direct Relief is not able to fulfill or comply with, Direct Relief will advise the donor of this situation and inquire if other uses may be permitted. In the event that a donor’s intent cannot be met by Direct Relief, the organization would offer to direct the gift to another nonprofit that would be able to fulfill the donor’s intent or return the gift.
HAITI DONATIONS POLICY
Direct Relief International is among the many organizations that has witnessed a tremendously generous response to the tragedy in Haiti. With the public being encouraged by many sources to donate, we believe it important to clarify how Direct Relief will use the money we receive.
100% of funds donated for Haiti will be used exclusively for programmatic activities related to Haiti. None of the funds donated for Haiti will be used to pay for fundraising or administrative expenses, or for programmatic activities in other places. Direct Relief is able to do this because fundraising and administrative expenses are being covered by the proceeds of a generous bequest received three years ago.
General donations make it possible for Direct Relief to respond to this and other emergencies, as well as conduct our ongoing humanitarian health work around the world and in the United States. All of these activities are compelling and important to serve people who need help.
Direct Relief is committed to honoring donors’ intentions. Direct Relief will not redirect any funds that we receive for Haiti to any other purpose or area. There is no fine print or qualification – if a donation is designated by a donor for Haiti, it is treated as a restricted contribution and will be used only to assist Haiti. Consistent with our standard practices, an internal fund has been established to account for, track, and report all such donations into the Haiti fund, and expenses from it.
To ensure that we understand a donor’s intention, Direct Relief’s online donations page requires a donor to select among options before completing a donation. Also, we have asked that donors sending in donations by mail indicate “Haiti” if they wish to designate their donation. Donations made via text donations (by texting “Give10” to 20222) are restricted contributions for Haiti. This is clearly stated on the confirming message before a text donation is completed.
In addition to financial contributions described above, an element of Direct Relief’s longstanding program model also involves the provision of medical materials, including medicines, equipment, surgical supplies, nutritionals, and other in-kind medical resources. A large percentage of these materials are donated by the manufacturers, many of which we have worked with for decades.
As the sole nonprofit organization licensed as a pharmacy in all 50 U.S. states and approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as a Verified Accredited Wholesale Distributor, we must comply with stringent requirements in the U.S. and internationally. We only accept material that is suitable, and only provide it when it is appropriate for the circumstances and requested by a qualified partner organization that will use them. In accounting for and describing any medical material contributions, the wholesale financial value is used.
Direct Relief’s urgent priority is to assist people in Haiti. In noting these seemingly technical matters, such as internal accounting practices, the distinction between general and restricted contributions, and the valuation methodology assigned to material aid, we wish simply to inform members of the public who have shown such generosity and deserve to know how their contributions will be used.
Donation Policy for Hurricanes Katrina/Rita Assistance Efforts
We know that the public is generally encouraged at times of high-profile disasters that ‘the best way to help respond to Katrina is to send money.’ This is true in many instances, but it is only true if the money actually helps people for whom it is given.
It is your money, and we want you to understand what we will do with it if you contribute to Direct Relief.
If you designate your contribution for Hurricanes Katrina/Rita, we will use 100% of the contribution for expenses directly related to these activities and nothing else. We believe this is a simple concept, but we also think it is important to spell out what exactly it means to us when we receive a donation designated for a specific incident.
Direct Relief never uses a specific tragedy for general fundraising efforts for our organization. We also do not use a specific incident such as the Katrina/Rita emergency to solicit funds for a loosely defined “disaster fund” or a fund “to help these victims and others victims of tragedy.”
This is not because other tragedies deserve less – we have responded to humanitarian crises for 57 years – but because we believe it is wrong to show a picture of current victims in a particular place without committing to help those specific victims with money that is given for their assistance.
We will not use Katrina/Rita funds to pay for any salaries, rent, administrative expenses, or anything else that we had already anticipated in our budget – despite the fact that we are devoting these resources extensively now to the relief effort.
We always have the significant challenge of raising money for these expenses, but we do not believe it is appropriate to cover these pre-existing expenses with money that is clearly intended to help victims of the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes. We don’t consider funds we receive specifically for these incidents “Direct Relief’s money” but rather money people have given to us to do the right thing for victims of these incidents. We believe it is for them and that we are trustees – to both you and them – to make sure it serves them in the most effective way possible.
Here’s what we will spend your money on: We will spend designated donations on new expenses directly related to Katrina/Rita that we have not anticipated in our budget. These expenses will include such things as purchasing medicines that are otherwise not available and packing and shipping costs to health facilities in the region. This is our particular area of expertise and the needs in this area are significant.
If we have available funds, we also will provide cash assistance to front-line health facilities to cover their increased expenses. If what we do ever becomes not what is needed or is otherwise addressed through a better source, we will give the money to a trusted, credible organization in the region that can help address other essential needs for the people.
Direct Relief will absorb all administrative expenses associated with Hurricanes Katrina/Rita contributions, including the processing charge (typically 2-3% range) that we must pay to the credit-card processing company for Katrina/Rita-designated contributions we receive via credit card. This ensures that 100% of your donation is used only for direct expenses related to Hurricane Katrina assistance.
This policy is consistent with our actions following September 11 and the tsunami last December. Those policies are on this website, and you can read about how we spent money in strict accordance with these policies. General undesignated contributions to our organizations are always much needed for us to function. Indeed, because we receive general funds, we have been able to respond fast and extensively to the Katrina emergency.
However, we want any person considering making a contribution specifically for Katrina/Rita to know that we will honor that intent and how we will do so.
Thank you for your generosity.
President and CEO
Statement Regarding Contributions Designated for Tsunami Relief
The scale of human tragedy in South Asia is beyond our ability to characterize. The numerical death toll represents individual people, each someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, mother or father, or friend.
In the midst of a profoundly sad moment for millions of people, we at Direct Relief have had the privilege to encounter the enormous compassion and generosity of people around the world who have sought, through us, to assist in some way. Our staff members and dozens of volunteers have answered thousands of calls. The offers of help and financial contributions are deeply humbling and inspiring.
It is being said repeatedly in the media that cash contributions are the best way to help people in South Asia. This is true, and Direct Relief is accepting cash contributions. However, because of the outpouring of generosity and contributions that Direct Relief and it appears many other organizations are receiving, we think it necessary to state very clearly our policy with regard to specifically designated contributions and what we will do with money that we receive that is designated for the tsunami relief efforts.
First, Direct Relief has never used a specific tragedy as a general fundraising opportunity. We will not do so in this instance.
Second, we will establish a separate bank account into which specifically designated funds will be deposited.
Third, we consider the funds that contributed specifically for this disaster to be entrusted to us for the benefit of people whose lives have been tragically affected. The people who have called us, many grieving and emotional about the tragedy, have made it clear that they want their money to assist these victims – not others in other places that we assist who also face extraordinary challenges and are vulnerable. We understand this, and we will honor that intent.
Fourth, although all of our worldwide activities are compelling and extremely important on a humanitarian basis, we will not redirect any funds that we receive for this tragedy to any other tragedy. We have no fine print or qualification in our accepting of a donation for this tragedy. We will use this money solely to pay for expenses directly related to assisting people in the affected areas.
Fifth, if the type of medical material assistance that Direct Relief provides at some point becomes less important than another type of assistance that the victims need, we will make cash grants to the health facilities that will have a long, hard road in the future or to other organizations who we are convinced will spend the money wisely and efficiently to assist the victims.
Sixth, we will spend money from this account only when it is clearly related to the tsunami relief effort. These expenses will include such things as air-cargo transportation, procurement of medicines, supplies, medical equipment, or other health-related items (such as water purification equipment) that are not donated, packaging material, travel costs for professional staff or contract experts to go disaster areas to ensure efficient distribution and use of material, or cash grants to organizations providing on-site relief. We will not pay the salaries of our current professional staff from the tsunami-relief contributions, even though many of us will spend a significant amount of our time on this disaster effort.
Seventh, our organization has ongoing expenses that we need to raise from friends and supporters each year. To conduct our assistance programs we need to maintain our warehouse, biomedical and pharmacy operations, obtain medical material contributions or buy essential products, pay for overseas shipping, and pay our staff of 29 persons. We typically operate at a deficit for 50 out of 52 weeks, and this tragedy occurred during the last week of the year, which is when we learn whether we made our budget for the year. We still need to raise funds to cover our general operating expenses, but we will not use tsunami-relief contributions for this purpose.
Eighth, we will not allocate any percentage of general administration, fundraising, existing warehouse space costs, or general overhead to the tsunami relief fund.
Finally, we believe strongly that this tragedy is not about raising money for Direct Relief International. We have long experience in one important area of medical assistance, but the disaster has destroyed many other things that are important for people to regain their lives, livelihoods, and hope for the future. Other organizations do other things very well that are essential for the victims – food and shelter efforts, water and sanitation and, in the coming months, economic development, and reconstruction. We want prospective donors to understand the complexity of this disaster, so that each area receives adequate support. We also encourage all prospective donors to examine our financial records, which are easily accessible on this website.
This disaster is beyond the scope of any one organization or, indeed, government to address fully. We are committed to doing whatever we can within our area of expertise to help the people who have suffered, and we will work closely with all other groups to ensure that the funds that have been so graciously and generously provided are spent as efficiently and wisely to help the people for whom the donations have been made.
Thank you for your generosity.
President and CEO