We’ve seen the outpouring of donations to disaster relief efforts in such places as Thailand and Japan (although the response has not always been consistent. The numbers are staggering: within ten days of the Haiti earthquake two years ago, $742 million had been committed to relief and a further $920 million pledged. The total eventually ballooned to over $3.5 billion. Often, donations take too long to be processed to be of any use on the ground. So, if I donate my $20 to the Red Cross’ tsunami relief a few days after the tsunami occurred, and it takes a few weeks for the Red Cross to process this donation, my donation has arrived too late to meet the pressing need.
If Red Cross is swimming in donations and cannot responsibly spend my $20 in Thailand, is it okay if it spends my money elsewhere. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Red Cross was not the only relief agency facing this problem, but some other charities would not publicly admit to being over-saturated with donations, for fear of propagating a belief that they would not need donations in the future, as discussed in this Times article.