In-kind donation practices, challenges and strategies for NGOs and donors
Islam, Md. Moinul
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This thesis focuses on developing a comprehensive framework for understanding the challenges NGOs face with in-kind donations in disaster relief. The overwhelming problem of inappropriate material donations, often referred to as the second disaster, has plagued disaster relief operations for decades now in both domestic and international disaster response. Despite efforts to promote ``cash only'' giving in disaster relief, unsolicited and mostly inappropriate in-kind giving continues to challenge NGOs in every major disaster. Researchers have identified this as one of the most pressing yet understudied challenges in disaster relief to date. This thesis is divided into three parts. In the first part, we conduct a multidisciplinary literature review from philanthropy, economics, public policy, corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility to understand why donors donate in-kind and why NGOs accept those donations. We describe the roles of the various players involved and explain the structure of the distribution channels in-kind donations follow both in disaster and non-disaster contexts. We then explain the challenges NGOs and their donors face with in-kind donations in the context of these channels. We identify systemic issues in the distribution channels and highlight current policies and practices that contribute to the second disaster. In the second part of this thesis, we propose a comprehensive framework to help donors, NGOs and policy makers comprehend the scope of the problem and identify strategies to address the challenge of unsolicited donations in disaster relief. Our framework provides a succinct representation of the main issues and players involved in the process in a format that is simple to work with and easy to understand. It supports comprehension of the many related issues and can help NGOs and policy making bodies (e.g., FEMA, NVOAD, USAID) assess current strategies and devise new approaches and solution strategies. In the third part of the thesis, we exploit our framework to propose a tiered strategy consisting of a set of solutions ranging from decision tools to help NGOs better screen in-kind donation offers to entire new channels for more productive in-kind giving in disaster relief. Each of these solutions may deter only a small fraction of the inappropriate flows, but together they can dramatically diminish the problem. Our proposed NGO decision tools both allow quick screening of donation offers in disaster relief and provide a framework for strategic management of corporate in-kind donations in the long term. We also propose a ``retail donation model" which can transform a portion of the current stream of unwanted and unusable in-kind donations from individuals and community groups into a valuable source of needed relief supplies through an entirely new donation channel. We document a successful implementation of an on-line retail donation model in the 2012 Sandy response.