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January 13, 2015

Opinion: Aid Charities Must Weigh Value of In-Kind Gifts

Marking the fifth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, a top official with Partners in Health writes for NPR that aid groups conducting disaster relief should take steps to discourage or reject unsuitable or unsolicited in-kind donations. Kathryn G. Kempton, the charity's head of international operations, says misguided gifts, ranging from a single rollerblade to sophisticated medical equipment unsuitable for rural emergency clinics, can divert staff time and slow relief work.

To maximize effective giving in disasters, Ms. Kempton suggests humanitarian groups prioritize standards for in-kind gifts set by affected countries' governments, post online lists of the materials needed most, and be willing to reject ill-judged donations. "We need to move beyond the image of the bountiful donor and the supplicant organization begging for castoffs and move toward true partnerships," she writes.