No donations for victims of Sandy

After the havoc and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean and in the Eastern United States, appeals for help and donations have popped up as reliably as Christmas chocolate will hit the shops around this time of the year.

At first sight, it sounds both normal and great: millions of people have suffered from the storm, the water, power outages and you can help them by donating 10, 20 or 50 $. An easy way to help someone in need.

On closer inspection however, donating money to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, especially in the US, is the dumbest idea ever.

“What?” I hear you cry out in shock, especially from my American readers. “What can possibly be wrong about donating money to victims of a natural disaster?” Let me explain: the problem with so many actions that seem good if evaluated as an isolated action is that there is no isolated action. More concretely, any money that you donate to victims of Sandy will be gone. You can’t donate it again to another cause. Because of this, all options of charitable giving compete with each other for your purse or cheque book.

When making a decision about a charitable donation, you have to assess, at the very least, two factors: need and impact.


In the Eastern United States, several hundred thousand people are now without electricity, without running water, many of the can’t go back to their homes, they have lost their cars and their other belongings. Their places of work might have been destroyed as well.

That’s bad. But all of those affected receive considerable help from local, state and federal emergency rescue services, police, fire fighters, hospitals, FEMA and so on. And honestly, as long as you can tweet and twitter non-stop about your plight or as long as your biggest problem is the cancellation of a marathon run, this doesn’t strike me as the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the decade.

In other parts of the world, people are starving to death, suffering from malaria or are exposed to hurricanes without the recourse of effective government help. I would respectfully suggest that these should be the priorities of your help, especially considering that the US are one of the richest countries in the world.


Because of the higher level of prices in the US and because the basic needs (like getting enough food to survive) which are cheaper to cover, have already been met in the US, your donation will have much less of an impact if it goes to the US.

If you donate 100 $ to New Jersey or New York, somebody will buy a new charger for his Apple iMac and order a pizza for the rest. If you donate 100 $ to Swaziland, Mali or Afghanistan, a child could get fed for a month, could get a life-saving vaccination or could get enough schoolbooks for a few years of education.


If you have family or friends that have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, I fully understand that you prefer to help them directly. But if you are an unrelated donor who wants to give some money, please think again and look for a more worthwhile cause.

(Anläßlich des Elbe- und Donau-Hochwassers 2013 erschien ein ähnlicher Artikel auf Deutsch.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Economics, USA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to No donations for victims of Sandy

  1. I agree about the donations…yes, it is bad after Sandy, but not as bad as starving children. I think we see so many starving children that our minds become numb to that fact.

  2. Brenden says:

    I agree with you. How many people are always without electricity, running water and a steady food source with no help on the way? Now the people of the east coast are temporarily living how millions always live. And it wasn’t like this hurricane came out of nowhere, they had ample warning.

    • kristen says:

      This is just rude. I live in NJ, NOT on the beach, but 10 miles inland. Not near any water. AT ALL. I lost power, what, 8 days ago now. I have a home, but no electricity…nope. Ok, that is fine, but for my 2 year old…not so great. WE had to wait to travel out of our home to make sure it was safe to drive with all the downed trees and electrical wires. We luckily were able to go to families homes that had power restored within 3 days of losing it. However, not all of us are looking to get “boats, summer homes, phones, etc…” Donating to the cause will help those who were in areas far enough away from what should be deemed in this area a dangerous place to be in a storm, yet who still lost everything due to downed trees, or water rushing inland 10 miles and sweeping away homes which were unsuspecting. My husband has lost his source of income, being a clammer. No more clamming for a LONG time. Sad. NOT all of us are looking for handouts, etc. A LOT of people have opened up their homes and hearts. My husband is going to volunteer to help cleanup and then look for a new job to support our family….so, AMPLE WARNING, yes, but don’t be so judgemental when you are not here to realize the impact. It’s truly ignorant. And, while the money can help children in other countries, the USA has helped many others, why don’t we try to take care of our own for once?

    • ctrain says:

      Yes! Perfect kristen. I needed that after reading this stupid article. About the article, a warning about the storm doesn’t do shit when you can’t pick up your house and move it. Can’t find a new job by that time they were given. I am not anywhere near any coast but I assume it all works the same everywhere else in the U.S.
      If this idiot is going to make calls on us being the richest country be can blow it out his ass. Why don’t you research the richest country and learn that it is Qatar, only a stone throw away from Mali or Afghanistan and close to Swaziland than us. Why can’t they help out those people. WE ARE #6/7th richest. U.A.E. and Kuwait are just below us. Why can’t they help out as well? Why don’t you make an article telling them to help out their neighbors next door, just as people here in the U.S. are doing. IDK if you know this or not, but we don’t need to rely on our government for everything because from the looks of it they are having trouble financing things the way it is.

  3. The concept of need is very true….need isn’t the most here. To say “not to donate” though I have to disagree with. I donated to the Red Cross, and the money is used directly on disaster relief. None of it will be used to buy a Mac charger or Starbucks. That idea is ludicrous. Plus, whatever is left over after Sandy is a distant memory the Red Cross still uses for various aid projects anywhere in the world. Just because we’re a wealthy nation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help our own. I also agree however that $100 will do wonders for a village in Africa or Afghanistan though. Great post.

    • ctrain says:

      You just pointed out how ridiculous the whole idea of the article is. You agree with 1 section, which I agree to an extent, but not in the context he uses it. And it becomes a great post? I was nodding reading this post up until the end. Or was that sarcasm?

  4. g says:

    But their losses are greater than a kid in mali most of the houses by the coast get pricier the closer they get to the water and what about the yachts and sailboats they lost , Sad part there are poor people affected by the storm “cuba got hit hard too” didnt see anything on the news about that!

    • It was in the news in Cuba however. I assume.
      But outside of the US, it was indeed weird how the coverage concentrated on Manhattan, just because all the news guys are there anyway. And maybe we do care more for white folks with yachts than for poor people in shacks.

    • ctrain says:

      I am just guessing here, but I think a hurricane hitting Manhattan is a pretty big deal. It is not about caring for white folks. I am white ok, but what drives me through the walls is people acting like the white man is treated like the best damn thing on earth and everyone is suppressed by him. It is just a stupid thought.
      “I had actually thought about the environmental argument along the following line of thought: if there will be quick reconstruction help, people will just rebuild and not think about the consequences of man-made climate change.” -this is what you said below in a comment. Why give money to Cuba and even care about their misfortunes from natural disasters? They live on a damn island in the tropics in hurricane territory! What did they expect? They probably live in shacks because their houses get knocked down every season. Cubans, they must be morons to live on an island knowing a hurricane could hit them anytime in that season, right? But yeah, the white man is suppressing them and holding them to that island.
      This is why there are liberals.

  5. Coverage of Sandy’s impact outside the US was indeed sparse. The US outlets have reported almost nothing about the devastation in the Caribbean, BBC has mentioned the other countries but emphasized the US, and from what I’ve seen of the European news, it has been heavily slanted toward US coverage.
    I will definitely second the questions about donating to people who foolishly built close to the coast. There are many poorer, farther inland communities that could use help. On that topic, though I will HEAVILY protest giving to the Red Cross. There have been numerous problems with their organisation here in the States, with large overhead costs and lots of money simply vanishing. I will shill for the Salvation Army, though. They are a good group with a smaller percentage of donations going to overhead, and they have a sterling reputation of servicing the American military personnel both in the field and back here at home.
    Though I’m a bit surprised, Andreas. You missed the obvious one, especially for a “green” like yourself – if you bail out the people building near the ocean front, you encourage them to go right back to an area where rising ocean levels and warming environments will guarantee more, and worse, storms! Dude – you missed the “green” shot! I’m SHOCKED! ;) :D

    • I had actually thought about the environmental argument along the following line of thought: if there will be quick reconstruction help, people will just rebuild and not think about the consequences of man-made climate change. Quick help would thus be a disincentive to thinking and to changing one’s behaviour.
      But I didn’t want to mix environmental and economic arguments in one article. That’s how structured I think. :-)

    • So you’re saying my thinking is unstructured, eh? One problem with that conclusion – it assumes I think in the first place….. ;)

    • No, I meant to say that you can grasp more issues in one thought. I have to think more compartmentalized. Like a student who goes from French into history class and switches on a different part of his brain.

    • Once again, your mis-assumption that I actually HAVE a functional brain….. :D

    • ctrain says:

      Really? And in case you didn’t know a lot of people living on coasts are fishermen or somehow related to the ocean. All around the world, every damn country has a higher populations on the coast. According to your logic, why cover hurricane devastation on the caribbean?
      For them, it is same shit, different year.

    • First off, ctrain, calm down. If you want a polite answer, write a polite comment. Otherwise, blow it out YOUR rear. (You’re a guest here, just like me. Be civil or go away.)
      Second, if you take the time to TRULY read my comment, I’m railing against the rich who have “summer homes”, and the people who built-up poorly-constructed part-time residences into homes without proper reinforcement of their structure. Many of these people are NOT long-term seafaring folk, they either wanted a “dream view” or work in one of the waterfront industries (like the boardwalks) and could have either bought homes further inland, or consulted true seafaring folk as to the wisdom of a poorly built house in the line of hurricanes.
      I have no problem with taking care of those people whose livelihoods are tied to fishing or other seafaring jobs. I have a HUGE problem with a lot of the charitable groups (like the Red Cross) who have repeatedly defrauded donators or squandered money on top-heavy organisational nonsense.
      You aren’t the only person who knows things, and to suggest otherwise is rude and childish. If you want to discuss how to BETTER help the people affected by Sandy, I’m more than willing to do so. If you just want to blast people who don’t like seeing their aid money wasted, then I’ll pass, thanks just the same.

    • (Sigh.) Sorry, ctrain, you caught me on a VERY bad migraine, late at night. I should not have told you to blow anything out anywhere – I’m arguing for civility, then I make that dumb comment. Apologies, to you and everyone else for that. Ignore that, and let’s duel actual points, okay?

  6. Reblogged this on Muslimah Directions and commented:
    What do you think?

  7. kristen says:

    Please, NOT all of us want all that rebuilding…I for one, think, well, nature does not want all these homes where they should not have been….BUT PLEASE…have some compassion. Your article, while maybe well intentioned, was inconsiderate to those of us who are NOT wealthy, beach house and yacht owning people…but blue collar workers whose jobs are now gone due to pollution from the storm, (gas leaks, oil spills, etc…debris) as well as complete devastation to the locale in which we work. Donations are greatly appreciated by those who are in dire need of help in this situation and who found living tough economically prior to this hurricane. Just a heartless article IMO.

  8. Sugel says:

    Wow. These must be very fortunate people indeed. I do not own a car and I live in a city with few contacts… it’s easy to think “what would I do?” & “where would I go?” – I find it fascinating that some people cannot imagine that scenario. “it is much cheaper to book a hotel room” – are you serious? Some people don’t have that kind of money. Likewise, some people chose to stay and they are facing the repercussions – but that’s just NOT true for EVERY victim of hurricane Sandy. There are elderly, poor, and disabled people in our society… Whatever the choices they made – many, many, Americans are in distress now. I think we should be nice.

  9. Pingback: Another “Humanitarian Crisis” | The Happy Hermit

  10. hrudayacares says:

    great to see the nice site and to know about the people like this . But many of he people lost so many things in this area.
    Heart Foundation

  11. Pingback: Keine Spenden für das Hochwasser! | Mosereien

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