Wyclef Jean’s Appeal for Haiti

Overthinking It’s overthoughts and overprayers go out to the people of Haiti at this great time of crisis. One of OTI’s favorite Perfect Gentlemen, Wyclef Jean, is already on his way to Haiti through the Dominican Republic (probably there by … Continued

Overthinking It’s overthoughts and overprayers go out to the people of Haiti at this great time of crisis.

One of OTI’s favorite Perfect Gentlemen, Wyclef Jean, is already on his way to Haiti through the Dominican Republic (probably there by the time you read this) to help out people on the ground. His foundation for Haiti, Yele, is one of the many organizations gathering donations to help with relief efforts. OTI knows you can find any number of other organizations doing good work, but there’s little substitute for having the people who sound the call be people like to listen to. So, whether you give to Wyclef’s foundation or to somebody else, listen to Wyclef, and do something—however you figure out how to do it—to help these folks.

Wyclef is also soliciting donations to his foundation, which looks like it is refocused now on earthquake relief through his twitter feed. (I’m not going to recommend those text to donate things because I don’t have confidence in them; but if you do, sound off in the comments.)

Here’s Wyclef on Anderson Cooper 360. An interesting cultural moment:


And here’s a repost of Wyclef’s message from www.yele.org.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 02:05PM

“Haiti today faced a natural disaster of unprecedented proportion, an earthquake unlike anything the country has ever experienced.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake – and several very strong aftershocks – struck only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince.

I cannot stress enough what a human disaster this is, and idle hands will only make this tragedy worse. The over 2 million people in Port-au-Prince tonight face catastrophe alone. We must act now.

President Obama has already said that the U.S. stands ‘ready to assist’ the Haitian people. The U.S. Military is the only group trained and prepared to offer that assistance immediately. They must do so as soon as possible. The international community must also rise to the occasion and help the Haitian people in every way possible.”

Many people have already reached out to see what they can do right now. We are asking those interested to please do one of two things: Either you can use your cell phone to text “Yele” to 501501, which will automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund (it will be charged to your cell phone bill), or you can click here to DONATE.

Thank you,

The regular Yele Haiti website will resume in a couple of weeks. In the meantime our focus is on providing real-time information about the situation in Haiti.

Oh, and one more note from OTI — if you think there’s any reason why you shouldn’t do what you can to find some effective way to lend a hand or a dollar in Haiti, well, Wyclef has this much to say about whatever stands in your way (out of context, of course):


One Comment on “Wyclef Jean’s Appeal for Haiti”

  1. fenzel #

    In response to recent controversy that Wyclef’s charity has high administrative costs, is not financially well-managed, and accusations that it does not push enough money toward the people who actually need it, a few things:

    1. I confess I don’t know much at all about Wyclef’s charity. Promoting it was a snap judgement based on the idea of promoting overall awareness and generosity — I tried to mention that I don’t endorse donating specifically to Wyclef, it just seemed like a cool thing he was doing.

    2. This is kind of unrelated, but I have a real problem with people measuring the efficacy or efficiency of a charity based solely on its administrative costs. Failing to keep up a robust administration can mean that, sure, your aid gets dumped in the direction it needs to go in, but it also can mean the impact is reduced. All the people who donated food to charities that had to leave it on the beach or airport tarmac because they had no logistics to support distributing it through Haiti would be wise to consider that this is a time during which more administration in the right place, and less aid, would have done more good.

    I come at this from the point of view of nonprofit theatres, which also get evaluated based on their administrative costs, especially for doing things like educational programs. And I’ll tell you that you can throw money at the problem, sure, but good administration, which is more expensive than crappy administration, goes a long way. And punishing good administrators creates unfortunate incentives.

    Low administrative costs do not necessarily mean that donations are more efficiently serving a nonprofit’s mission. Here’s an interesting paper from the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute Center on Philanthropy, and Indiana University that specially addresses fundraising costs:


    There’s some other good material here:


    I certainly don’t really know why Wyclef’s charity was spending money where it was spending money, but I’m not going to assume it was corrupt or bad because Wyclef was compensated for work he did for the foundation (for all we know, it involved some reimbersement of expenses as well). People who work for charities do get paid salaries pretty frequently. And I’m not going to say it’s unworthy of donations just because it has high administrative costs.

    That said, I can’t say I have any special confidence in Wyclef’s organization; it just seems to me these criticisms are overblown in ways that are common among overblown criticisms of nonprofits.

    3. Nonprofit accounting and fiscal reporting is notoriously bad across the whole spectrum of nonprofits. Wyclef’s charity is certainly not alone for not taking very good care of its books. Accounting is expensive, and if charities are under pressure to cut administrative costs, they can be reluctant to spend money on accountants — or on market-rate or below-market-rate professionals to handle accounts payable/accounts receivable. Also, there can be problems with the readiness of leadership for these things. There’s a certain perception that running a nonprofit is less fiscally rigorous than running a for profit business; that nonprofit managers don’t need as much education or experience — mostly it’s an issue of noncompetitive wages. But the main thing is, a lot of nonprofit managers screw up their financial statements, mostly by accident.

    I’ve worked for fiscally mismanaged charities, and it wasn’t bad people. It was that we couldn’t afford quality time with a good accountant.

    So, yeah, don’t endorse Wyclef in particular, but don’t think the little evidence I’ve seen seems all that bad. More as it develops.


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