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.
Review from CharityNavigator
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.
I hope this review does not appear completely negative, but rather establishes an eye-opening view into the organization's pitfalls and illustrates the need to urgently make changes in its executive management structure. Bottom line is…RI’s future, legacy, effectiveness and longevity are at stake and this needs to be addressed and resolved immediately.
The work RI does is tremendous and inspiring, so I hesitate to focus this critique as wholly negative. The mission and aim of the organization is one that undoubtedly helps disenfranchised communities across the world - this I have no issue with and fully support.
My problem arises when attempting to understand and accept the internal mechanism within RI, notably the way in which employees are treated by a particular senior executive (the CEO/Founder Farshad Rastegar).
RI needs to improve on in its effectiveness and start outwardly appreciating and retaining the highly-motivated, dedicated and educated people within its staff. This is for the good of the organization. Currently, there is a systematic culture of fear, and a high-level of toxicity resulting in a severely hostile work environment; thus the reasons for the large attrition rate and constant overturning within the ranks. I have had numerous discussions with people who have departed over the course of a year and discovered the 'why' to many of their departures; the result has been that in 88% of the cases the departure reason is due to the person having either direct or indirect communication with Farshad Rastegar and how he treats them was the #1 issue. Farshad has a deluded sense of reality of how he is viewed within all tiers of the organization as well as the insurmountable lack of respect he holds amongst his ranks. This lack of respect is a by-product of his constant ‘bullying’ behavior and threatening communication to his employees. (There are countless first-hand encounters reflecting this claim [in emails, Skype conversations etc.] by myself and those who have left the organization within the last year)
In addition, there is a reason why after a negative review left in March of 2012 on charitynavigator.com has had numerous and spontaneous April 2012 5 and 4-star reviews…Farshad Rastegar explicitly directed his staff to write positive reviews on the website to counter the effects of the negative review. Is this the way an organization should be run? Like a Stalin-era dictatorship where any negative feedback is immediately rejected by forcing staff members to write good reviews for the sake of writing more positive reviews to cover the truly honest one written in March of 2012? It gives me a visceral feeling indeed. Farshad’s management style is appalling, and a respectable leader would never behave like this. He even went so far as attempting to have charitynavigator.com delete the negative post but to no avail, what are you hiding Farshad? I seriously recommend he read the following article to understand how to improve his methods:
Additionally, Farshad fits into each of these categories:
I feel as though RI employees should be sent to this seminar:
Since joining RI, I have had the disappointment in experiencing first-hand and by way of witnessing others' interactions with Farshad, an extremely toxic, hazardous and fearful work environment. There is a constant deficit of respect and an utter disregard for the human component, both which have surmounted any of my previous experiences with leadership styles in other organizations. This simply cannot be a way for an organization to function, and it cannot be sustainable or else RI risks the continuous exodus of its staff. It was even noted in an email from Farshad to a Director here in RI in July of 2012, that ‘those staff who can make it to the two-year mark are the cream of the crop and worthy of being an RI employee.’ So is Farshad stating that those who do not put in two years of work are worthless and unfit to be a member of RI? It is a repulsive assertion by him.
Farshad is constantly contradicting himself when giving guidance or having so-called SOPs that are basically him saying he remembers himself giving guidance months ago so it should be followed despite the fact that he refuses to sign off on codified processes or procedures. He is a megalomaniac, micromanager and cannot surrender any hint of control or power to those who have been hired to improve the organization.
It is a shame that RI has such a revered mission statement that helps those who need it most. Unfortunately, in most of RI’s private donations, donor misappropriation is happening at an expedited pace. Afterone reviews RI's BVAs (budget vs. actual) for several of its private donations, it is clear that many superfluous charges are attached to projects that should not have taken place; i.e. flights for personnel who have had no dealing with that particular grant, labor time for employees who have no relevant or justifiable reason to allot their time to the grant etc.
I reiterate that this review has not been a singular effort, I have been approached, as well as reached out to others within RI, and the statements above are a compilation of the issues abound in RI. Unfortunately, no action can be taken by any of our superiors/supervisors as all the issues stem from the interactions, decisions and treatment by Farshad Rastegar. If he were to be replaced, or at the very least a Chief of Staff put in place to buffer Farshad’s daily interaction with the rest of the staff, then can RI finally attempt to build a future that employs loyal, hard-working and intelligent staff members who WANT TO STAY AT RI.
In addition to this clearly intolerable treatment of staff by Farshad, RI is purposefully misclassifying sub-recipients and local partners as vendors to avoid the $25,000 cap per year on their US Government and USAID sub-contracts and sub-agreements, as dictated in the NICRA letter RI received in December 2011. Farshad Rastegar has dictated that RI creates a vendor determination checklist on April 18, 2012. Direct guidance was given by him to always take a default position when it comes to classifying these partners; he told his staff to assume that everyone is a vendor since USAID takes the default position that everyone is a sub-recipient. The vendor checklist is to validate this determination, but we are instructed to falsely complete this checklist to ensure these partners are seen as vendors even if they are clearly not. In summary, RI is trying to take as much NICRA as possible on these contracts and the staff at RI feels we are not being forthcoming or honest in the way our proposals and realignments are being calculated.
I am currently volunteering for Rellief International. All I can say is that I am impressed for the trust I have received from the organisation from the first minute. I have been volunteering and working for other INGOs and I find that Relief International is very professional and has a great team. I particularly like its holistic approach and its orientation towards the beneficiaries having much of the staff in the field.
Review from CharityNavigator
Relief International has a wonderful work dynamic and is full of dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable practitioners of development work and humanitarian aid. This is the whole package for interns looking to gain well-rounded experience in the field. In my day-to-day activities I come into contact not only with my own department (Executive), but also with Programming, Philanthropy, Finance, etc. The senior management team is accessible which is awesome, because they can offer insightful advice for moving forward with your career, and they truly want you to succeed. The best thing about interning for RI is that you come to understand how a non-profit organization operates, and you get the feeling that we’re all working for a similar purpose. We’re a team, and one person’s well-being contributes to the organization’s success as a whole. Having the opportunity to meet so many enthusiastic people who come from various backgrounds and levels of experience, but who are all connected by their genuine commitment to saving lives and sustaining livelihoods is rare. Having interned and worked in many capacities prior to joining RI, I can honestly say you would be hard-pressed to find diversity like this blended so compatibly elsewhere.
Interning at Relief International has been a truly gratifying experience. Interns at Relief International get to take part and have direct impact upon the organization's work. Interning here has really helped me determine what my passions are and what role I want to have in changing the world through humanitarian work, while further developing my skills. Relief International is now an organization I look up to as setting the bar in humanitarian relief and development work.
Review from CharityNavigator
I have had a good internship with Relief International. I spent two months in north Darfur and I worked, as volunteer, about management of severe and acute malnutrition among children under 5 years old. I passed all my time in Zamzam camp that is located near El Fasher. In this camp are assisting almost 200.000 internally displaced people fleeing from war that is bringing death and destruction since 2003.
My experience was very interesting. I worked very hard and closely with local field staff. They gave me a big support to understand everything. At the same time, my supervisor, Nutrition Coordinator and National Country Director gave me all the instruments to improve my abilities and my skills. Every day, they supported me with responsibility and energy.
What I did during my internship met my expectations, but I am aware that I need to continue to improve my skills. For this reason I could be very happy if there are some possibilities to continue to work with Relief International. RI is very dynamic organization and I like very much its approach.
Relief International is the WORST Non-Profit in the world. All poor employees are working hard to obtain Farshad Rastegar's benefits. No board interventions and presence. Board members are Relief International are passive and also under control of CEO (Farshad Rastegar). Auditors of Relief International have a close relation with CEO links. I am sorry for US tax payers.