RELIEF INTERNATIONAL

Rating: 3.68 stars   22 reviews

Issues: International, Economic Development, Microfinance

Location: 5455 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1280 Los Angeles CA 90036 USA

Mission: Relief International responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises -- from natural disaster, to civil conflict, to hunger and disease. We are committed to partnering with communities in need and transforming them from victims of vulnerability and marginalization to empowered participants in sustainable development.
Geographic areas served: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikistan, Uganda, West Bank/Gaza, Yemen
Programs: Emergency, Health and Sanitation Food and Agriculture Education and Empowerment Livelihoods and Enterprise Shelter and Infrastructure Protection and Human Rights

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Community Reviews

Rating: 1 stars  

I volunteered at RI for a year as an intern, and I generally agree with the negative reviews reported here.

1. The office environment is very negative. People are downright depressed, and employees are generally counting down the minutes to get home. I have seen people yelled at for asking questions! Some of tat must be forgiven though because of #2...
2. HR does a horrible job hiring, so the average employee is not capable of handling their position. I found many of the employees to be inexperienced while amazing talent was passed by for mysterious reasons. Remember HR that you always want to hire people who are better than you because otherwise you are fundamentally creating a more ignorant company!
3. Upper management has their hands in too many things. Like another reviewer said, it was difficult to send a letter on official letterhead without getting Farshad's approval.
4. Farshad lives a semi-exotic lifestyle while the rest of the office is downright abused. It's a very gross and dirty environment.

In the end I left because I felt that I was being taken advantage of. It was well known throughout the office that my boyfriend was a successful businessman, and I was there are a way to garner access. It would have worked, too, if I had seen the company make a positive difference. Instead we have made sizable donations to other charities.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Unlikely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

None

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Badly

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

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Review from CharityNavigator
Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 1 stars  

Thanks disasterguy. As such a new employee, you've probably not really been aware of the rollercoaster history of RI's CharityNavigator reviews, unless you took a peek before you accepted the position and decided you'd try it out despite some of the comments people made. Good for you for deciding for yourself if so.

Tell me though, it's very curious... what brought your attention to CharityNavigator-- and within 24 hours interestingly-- after the most recent negative review?

to anther point of yours, its possible to care about the quality of your staffs work without "getting so personally involved in the issues". If you cared about the quality of work, you'd empower, train, and prepare your staff to get it done right (training director does not focus on internal training at all), set up a system to review the staff regularly (I hear the CEO has not conducted a performance review with any of his staff for years), and offer incentives for positive performance (try talking to the hourly staff about that). You'd also ensure turnover was low enough that you as a C-level could focus on strategic direction, rather than lecturing your staff about not stapling every document vertically.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Somewhat badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 4 stars  

As a relatively new employee of RI, I would like to make a few comments based on the two previous ones below. Over the years I have worked for a number of NGOs, and other development organizations. None are without fault, or institutional character. Organizations, particularly relatively newer ones, such as RI, evolve and identify and then improve or correct their systems and approaches and management strategies. It is an ongoing process. I have been impressed by RI’s sincere desire to improve management systems, employee care, efficiency of decisions-making and a number of other issues that were raised below as deficits. I have seen first-hand that staff care, a desire to establish and implement professionalism, and a regard for employee experience and input are sincere. I can only base my observations on what I see and hear today, not what may or may not have been the case for former employees. More specifically I see a CEO who is deeply concerned about how well the mission of the organization is accomplished, in the most effective, and cost efficient way to do this. If he gets personally involved in many of the issues (which some have labeled micro-management) it is because he cares about the quality of the work. But I have also seen that as there are more and more experienced and capable people to ensure such quality, he does indeed encourage decision-making at other levels. Yes, there are some weaknesses – there always are in complex environments in which we work – and these are candidly and openly acknowledged and the process of improvements in ongoing.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Quite well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 1 stars  

As a former employee, based on my experience with this organization, it is my personal opinion that there are far better organizations that efficiently and ethically carry out humanitarian aid and development work. What I observed was widespread mismanagement, lack of even the most basic accountability measures, and a leadership structure that allows for the CEO to make unilateral decisions with no checks and balances, despite his claims that he is accountable to the Board. This claim is categorically false and does not hold any validity in practice. I worked on several projects and came into contact with many organizational units - none of which I felt were managed effectively. Employees are underpaid and treated poorly. There are no standards for professionalism. It is extremely concerning that the Founder, who claims to be a humanitarian, has such blatant disregard for people who work so hard toward advancing the work of RI. He seems to believe that character, professionalism, and external image are of no consequence. There have been many times I have encountered former employees and associates of RI, even prior to my start with the organization, who emphatically instructed me not to get involved with RI. The negative opinions definitely do have impact and they are not unfounded. While it is true that RI does deliver some good programs, these successes are overshadowed by the fact that as an organization, it performs far below expectations because of its senior managers who are unable to make rational, strategic decisions about increasing organizational capacity and intelligence. HR is ineffective in advocating for employees and is extremely unprofessional with regard to timely notifications regarding changes in employment status or any official documentation that needs to be provided to employees. The audit functions are completely obsolete. I would not recommend this organization to colleagues.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A little

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 2 stars  

Dear readers,

I worked with RI for about 3 years, overall it was a positive experience as I enhanced my skills working with very talented and profesional employees. However, I believe that RI's management style does not suit a company who has over $40 millions worth of projects. The founder of the company and CEO, Farshad Rastegar, rules the company the same way he did the time of its creation in the 90's. The CEO lacks of management oversight and wants to control every aspect of the organization. for instance, you need his signature for buying a stamp. On the other hand, he uses the company's project such as Horn in Africa to pay for his travel expenses and buying Godiva Chocolate is fine for him while the employees don't have a working water dispenser. I wonder why the company has a bad vibe.
I wish I could see the CEO step down and let other people take over this company and make the name RI better.
I really am afraid to wake up one day and hear that RI has gone down.
Do something if you can and stop writing five stars review because there is no such thing.....

Peace.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 
Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

Please read this review about RI. I am a long-time donor and a former employee of this organization. I worked for RI for several years in various roles in HQ and am now working for a donor organization in DC. Most reviewers here have an agenda and some agendas are more obvious and self serving than others. I know of the former employee that gave a blisteringly negative review of the organization and the CEO (who happened to be her supervisor). She left the organization after making many many mistakes, not meeting performance requirements, and when she was held accountable for her work she blamed her boss for her own professional shortcomings. The CEO is not kind, he is not likeable, but he is fair and he has a track record of promoting people who perform well under pressure with a heavy heavy workload. If you work hard, follow his direction, stop making the same mistakes over and over, then you do well in this organization. People who are not able to perform well and who refuse to be held accountable for their work often point a blaming finger to their boss or a coworker. RI is no different from other offices in this respect. Also, about the review of alex karimi, the self proclaimed documentarian. I googled him and found nothing about his professional documentary film-making capability. So that speaks for itself. RI is a young and rapidly growing organization that has made and continues to make a high level of impact for people in places that other NGOs will not even touch (Somalia is just one example of this). RI is good at delivering its product. RI is not good at promoting itself.

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 4 stars  

I have recently completed 2 volunteer assignments with Relief International, the first in London and the second in Nairobi. I found the teams I worked with to be highly competent and for the most part motivated and happy with the organisation's set-up and operations. The work I was involved in is very progressive, and I certainly felt that I was impacting upon the lives of individuals. After 10 months of volunteering I am ready to move forward, however I would happily return to Relief International in the future.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

I have been donating to Relief International for the past 5 years and have always had a pleasant experience but even more so in the past 2 years.
RI is active in over 25 countries which is of importance to me because I like to help globally but would rather do so through one organization that I trust instead of researching for a reputable organization each time I’d like to donate to a new country. Even so, I frequently have questions prior to donating to a project which I have not contributed to in the past. I have contacted RI’s headquarters office on several occasions to ask these questions and voice concerns and every time my questions were patiently answered by a philanthropy associate who explained what the projects mission was and how my money will be used.
I try to make quarterly contributions and receive acknowledgement of my donation with-in two weeks. Yet, I always loose one or two letters through-out the year and need to contact RI for duplicate copies before filing taxes. This process has always been quick and easy, they e-mail me copies of the letters to have right away and I receive the hard copy by mail with-in one week. It is a great assurance to know that the NGO I am donating to is organized and that my money does not fall through the cracks.

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

In response to the recent comments here, I’d like to bring forth some points I feel are important for readers to consider. I am an aid worker and have had professional interactions with Relief International and feel it is important to stress the overall environment for international NGO’s.
In order to analyze the critiques made objectively, we must realize that the field of International Development is EXTREMELY COMPETITIVE (for individuals as well as organizations). More and more individuals are increasingly attracted to the NGO field as many of us dream of helping people and changing the world. What we fail to consider is, unfortunately, jobs are limited in relation to demand and thus are very competitive.
On the other hand organizations, must also deal with this competition. In order to be competitive in the industry, respected and trusted by funders, partners, governments and the public the margin of error for organizations is very low. This results in a heightened sense of pressure and elevated standards for individuals in these organizations.
With this in mind, I am fully confident in donating to Relief International and have personally seen the life-changing differences the organization has made for the people it serves. They have 20 years of experience (not to mention devotion) and have helped shape this industry for the better and have set high standards for other organizations to strive for. Charity Navigator, an unbiased and trusted evaluator of both national and international NGO’s, has ranked them among top 3 in international relief and development charities.
The organization’s overhead (amount of money per each donation spent towards administrative costs) is merely 10% on all donations. A low overhead such as this means that more money is spent directly supporting the organizations programs, so in the case of Relief International 90% of donations are then funded directly to initiatives in the field. This along with the fact that Relief International partners with local NGO’s and works to implement sustainable programs –meaning programs that beneficiaries can manage long after the organizations man power is gone are reasons I truly admire RI. At the end of the day the people that NGO’s help are what matter.

I urge everyone to evaluate any organization they are planning on donating to by researching the achievements and impact the organization has had on the countries and the people it serves with its programs.

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Very Well

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you recommend this organization to others?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

I just read the complaint by the ex-employee of RI. I know from my own personal experience that RI is not as organized as it gives the impression. I am a documentary filmmaker and would very much like the ex-employees who have any complaints about RI to contact me for an interview. I will personally follow through and invite Mr. Rastegard and his staff to defend themselves and explain why they reject the claims made. email me akarimila@yahoo.com

Was your donation impactful?

Unsure

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Unlikely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Unlikely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Was this review helpful? 
Review from CharityNavigator