can there be too much help for Japan?

A wave approaches Miyako City from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after the magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck the area, March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Mainichi Shimbun

Pretty much globally we are watching with shock and horror the aftermath of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

And while our feelings are nothing compared to the Japanese who are living through all this – we all feel pretty helpless but are trying to find whatever small ways we can to help.

My small way, not surprisingly, is through voice over and specifically creating a :60 public service announcement about how people can donate to Japanese Red Cross through the American Red Cross – with a script based very tightly on copy from the American Red Cross web site.

I simply did this on my own as a way to help – any broadcast or web media can use this PSA and spread the word.

But was mine too quick a response?

It was noted in a March 15, 2011 article in the New York Times on this “Charitable Rush” for Japan that a lot of money is being collected for Japan – by the American Red Cross and other agencies – but that the Japanese Red Cross (as just one example) hasn’t really requested such funds. The Japanese Red Cross will accept it but at this writing there doesn’t seem to be a financial need like there was in Haiti last year (and I’m sure that need still continues).

After reading about this I wondered if I pulled the trigger too quickly on a PSA?

And I didn’t know that the American Red Cross keeps 9 percent of any money it raises for operational purposes. That is not unheard of in fundraising circles but I know, for example, that Catholic Charities holds back a much smaller percentage, 3% I believe – but don’t quote me.

So was I hasty?

In the end, I don’t think so. Here’s why I think that and please feel free to offer a contrary opinion in the comment section – even a nation with the significant wealth of Japan will have financial difficulty dealing with the residue of their massive earthquake, aftershocks, tsunami and now worst of all the escalating problem with nuclear radiation for so many people at one time.

At this writing there are an estimated 15,000 people dead or missing in Japan. Maybe I’m an alarmist and I pray to God I am wrong but I am worried that number will be higher in the end. The swath of damage covered so much land and affected so many people and facilities that the as yet unforeseen need seems unfathomable to me.

I believe the American Red Cross is an organization that does good work and I believe they are trying to serve a greater good as a donation site in the United States on behalf of their sister organization in Japan.

I would really like the idea of the American Red Cross significantly reducing its commission or handling charge or whatever on this particular fund raising effort as it is not responsible for much else except the collection and transfer of money. I think 3-4% would probably adequately cover any American Red Cross expenses. But that’s not my call and maybe not my business.

My goal, your goal, the American Red Cross’ goal – everybody’s goal I think or at least I hope – is to help, in whatever way we can, a group of people who we don’t know and we’ll never meet to have a better shot at a return to normalcy in their lives. That may take awhile.

There but for the grace of God, goes any of us.

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