Non-Profits: How Beneficical are They Really?



John Hopkins University states that if NGOs were a country, they would “have the fifth largest economy in the world.” This being said, it is clear that nonprofits and NGOs have a clear, real influence and effect in Haiti. From the immediate response to crisis, it extends prolonged existence within hundreds of countries, these organizations have countless effects, for better or for ill. Immediate effects of NGOs are overwhelmingly positive, but the long-term effects lead to dependence upon said organizations as well as the perpetuation of poverty in the country of Haiti.

The need for nonprofits and NGOs, as well as the positive effects of them, must not go unnoticed. This can be exemplified in the response to the 2010 earthquake that occurred in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As Arielle Emmett discusses, “It was hell, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, killing an estimated 230,000 people, leaving perhaps 3 million injured or homeless.” Perhaps the most noble aspect about these organizations is the speediness of response to disasters like this earthquake. As Sharyl Attkisson praises, nearly $15 billion was raised for disaster relief just for this devastating event.

“The need for nonprofits and NGOs, as well as the positive effects of them, must not go unnoticed.”

One must not merely look at the statistical summation of funds, but the specific actions taken by various persons and organizations. Project Medishare, a nonprofit set out to construct healthy communities in Haiti, was amongst the first groups to respond. Ginzburg et al. exemplify the rapid response by showing that within four days of the earthquake, they had constructed various operating rooms with several specialists from all around the world. Despite only having a handful of people, work was quick and efficient. The fervent work of the volunteers proved to be successful in bettering the physical state of the Haitian people.

Emmet articulated that, in part, the spike in fundraising was partly due to realistically grim photos of the condition of Haiti shortly after the earthquake. This caused funds, as well as volunteers, to flood directly into Haiti. Without these NGOs, nonprofits, and journalists, Haiti would have seemed to stand alone. This would have caused further crumbling from what the earthquake had already inflicted upon the country. This influx of money allowed for the group of doctors from Medishare to fly in several flights full of medical supplies. In turn, this permitted hundreds of surgeries to be performed. In fact, with the copious amounts of money and supplies, Ginzburg et al. cited that over simply a week they carried out over 425 operations upon severely injured Haitian citizens.

From this, it is abundantly clear that the immediate impact of these organizations is crucial for the well being of any country or community in crisis. This is perfectly illustrated in the days shortly after this earthquake. However, Daniel Jean-Louis, entrepreneur and author, asserts that a continuous inflow of money and free supplies create a variation of paternalism. With closer examination, persisting organizations like this have often misconceived what the betterment of a certain culture or community looks like. Whether or not this is intentional is hotly debated, but there are downright negative effects to this continuous “relief.”

To begin to shed light on the qualitatively lesser effects, the same example of Haiti will be used. As Arielle Emmett defends capturing realistic and raw photos of the plight of Haitians in order to convict people, it is noticeable what conception this brings in regards to the country of Haiti as a whole. Chief operating manager of dloHaiti Ken Michel provides rebuttals to the idea that Arielle contends. Michel does this by citing these photos created from the earthquake as leading to a faulty and sadly perpetual view of the country of Haiti as a wasteland that is barren and constantly full of devastation. Emmett correctly uses her reasoning for exposing graphic pictures as direct requests from the people of Haiti. This is not wrong in and of itself. Perhaps, it is even noble of her to take it upon herself to tell these stories. However, photojournalism seems to be conveniently displaced when it comes to the exposing the natural beauty and capacity of Haiti to be a coveted vacation destination.

“However, photojournalism seems to be conveniently displaced when it comes to the exposing the natural beauty and capacity of Haiti to be a coveted vacation destination.”

On top of this, $1 billion from USAID came into Haiti directly after the earthquake. Timothy Schwartz addresses this specifically in Poverty, Inc. He brings up the problems created from this $1 billion causing a massive increase in the importing of free rice to Haitian markets. Schwartz proposes that this does nothing but hurt Haiti, saying “Haitian farmers had to compete with subsidized rice agro-culturally produced.” Common sense makes it abundantly clear that family farmers in a third world country are unable to compete with the enormous and formulated industry of agriculture in America. Therefore, Jean-Louis lamented that farmers were hopelessly driven into downtown Port-au-Prince due to their incapacity to compete with American farmers. This greatly increased the population density in this city, leading to slums and even more poverty than what had previously been occurring.

Swiss business executive and philanthropist Andreas Widmer took a gracious yet stern approach to describing the crisis, calling the devastating earthquake a “human non-negotiable” as it pertains to the necessity of an immediate response. This gut response to help other humans was displayed so beautifully by Ginzburg and his colleagues, and they should readily be acknowledged for what they did. However, Widmer used the analogy of Superman to describe the heroic feeling given to those who quickly respond in a time of dire need. In this same documentary film, Jean-Louis even describes the persistence of NGOs and nonprofits as a “long-term natural disaster.”

“In this same documentary film, Jean-Louis even describes the persistence of NGOs and nonprofits as a ‘long term natural disaster.'”

Moreover, business founder of Enersa solar lighting Alex Georges articulates this with real figures. Before the earthquake, Enersa sold around 300 solar lights every six months. During and after the earthquake, this same company sold a measly five solar lights over the same period of time due to USAID  and United Nations sending thousands of lights for free. This put several employees out of jobs, and nearly crumbled the business that these Haitian men had tenaciously erected from the ground up.

This neglect of country’s best interest must be heard by charitable organizations around the globe. Accountability for NGOs and nonprofits from the general public is essential to ensure what is best for the global community. As well as this, Woods Bowman calls out these organizations directly, saying “Responsible organizations act as if outcomes matter. Doing good requires doing the right thing, not just the easy thing.” The easiest solution is to get funds by painting people groups as helpless and unable to work. On the other hand, helping the same people erect businesses and provide for themselves does not provide that “Superman” feeling that Widmer so accurately described. Rather, this way of financial aid leaves the people to be independent, and therefore much less gratifying for any given supporter.

The longing for instant gratification must be abandoned as Bowman correctly points out. While reporting on the current state of charities is rather grim, there are beacons of hope within these organizations. For example, the organization titled Partners Worldwide is set out to equip entrepreneurs of underdeveloped areas and hasten them to success so that they can improve the economy of their community and country. In essence, nonprofits that highlight the importance of putting groups of people into a place where they are no longer dependent on said nonprofits are few and far between, but they do exist.

All of this being said, these foundations as a whole do create immediately beneficial effects, and it is able to be demonstrated that quick response is indeed necessary to ensure the well-being of Haiti and other countries. However, dangers speedily follow prolonged persistence of charities that create a dependence unable to be broken. For better or for worse, these organizations are needed, but a more critical examination of these groups must be carried out in order to promote the bettering of Haiti and its people.


Atkisson, S. (2010). Haiti earthquake aid: Nearly $15 billion in donations. Retrieved from CBS News website:

Bowman, W. (2012). Nonprofit accountability and ethics: Rotting from the head down. Retrieved from Nonprofit Quarterly website:

Emmett, A. a. (2010). Too Graphic?. American Journalism Review, 32(1), 28-33.

Ginzburg, E., O’Neill, W., Goldschmidt-Clermont, P.J., Marchena, E., Pust, D., & Barth, B.A.,(2010). Rapid medical relief- Project medishare and the haitian earthquake. The New England Journal of Medicine, 362(31). doi:10.1056/NEJMp1002026

Global NGO Online Technology Report. (2017). 25 facts and stats about NGOs worldwide.

Retrieved from Nonprofit Tech for Good website:

Matheson, M. (Director and Writer), & Witt, J. (Writer). (2014). Poverty, inc [Video file].Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s