The point of a charity is to collect cash from generous citizens and direct it toward people and communities in need, right? Then how come of the $575 million raised in the months following Superstorm Sandy, $238 million of it is sitting in some vault somewhere, unallocated? To the charitable organizations of New York: People still really need that money, so stop doing the backstroke in your pool of gold doubloons and distribute it.
The Charities Bureau under the state Attorney General’s office released an interim report yesterday, disclosing that of the nearly 90 charities participating in Sandy relief, just five account for 80 percent of all donations. The biggest contributor, the American Red Cross, brought in $299 million alone, more than half of the total.
Twelve charities report spending less than 25 percent of their donations, and 29 have spent less than 50 percent. One organization, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, has left fully 100 percent of the $440,000 it has raised unspent.
The report identifies a few reasons for the hoarded millions, most of them having to do with challenges navigating bureaucracy. It comes just short of accusing any specific group of impropriety, but the A.G.’s office is definitely insinuating it.
And even the money that did get spent, about $336 million, didn’t all go directly toward Sandy relief projects. Nearly half of it was passed on to other charities, creating a swirling vortex from which no charitable donation can escape, or at least slowing down the pace at which help reaches those who need it.
The report does raise the question of whether these charities are equipped to handle spending the money, a concern the Voice does not share: The American Red Cross spent over $3 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, on its combined program and administrative expenses, or 92 percent of its revenue. Our hunch is, they’ll find some use for the money.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2013