My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Relief International, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Dear Ex-Employee of RI and Readers:
If there is any suspicion or misperception of wrongdoing there is nothing more damaging than letting it linger. Charity Navigator’s objective ranking lists Relief International as 2nd among hundreds of charities in international relief and development not because we raise the most money but because of our high accountability and transparency practices. This includes a robust and confidential accountability and reporting mechanisms to the Board that protects whistle blowers and covers the widest range of actions including those by senior managers and executives. That the complainant has chosen not to use any of those constructive mechanisms and rather has elected to use a very negative public statement only raises questions of its own. Nevertheless RI’s Internal Audit mechanism is such that it has a direct reporting line to the Board and as such the very comments below have been communicated in their entirety to our Board’s relevant Committees and Ombudspersons. RI’s Board which is fully independent of the management has several committees (Audit, Finance, HR, etc.) that independently and/or in combination can review allegations of misconduct and decide on corrective steps.
The allegations below touch on three issues:
a) CEO Management Style: While few charities may be run for the benefit of people who work in those organizations, Relief International, as with most other professional non-profits is run as a public interest organization. Meaning, our charity is directed at the people we serve and the funds trusted to us by the public and the donor community are for the benefit of these communities and not to guarantee jobs at the organization. While we treat our employees with the most generous health and other benefits packages and our salaries are modest by industry standards. Our organizational culture is defined by one of respect and of rewarding good work and not tolerating repeat slackers or non-performers.
To the extent that the negative comments below are directed at one and only one person I can suggest that no one person at Relief International or any other organization of this size and complexity is that significant to be the cause of so much bad or good. The complainant claims that her only concern is the CEO and that the organization’s work 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.” Therefore it is alarming and contradictory that the complainant ranks the organization as the lowest in all the categories noted (with a score of 1” out of 5).
b) Comments on Charity Navigator: In response to a previous unsubstantiated negative comment posted on Charity Navigator, our Donor Relations Officer was directed by Charity Navigator itself to generate positive comments as the ONLY means available by Charity Navigator to organizations to counter a negative comment. We have communicated to Charity Navigator our concern that while it purports to have and promotes itself an “objective” ranking system, its comments section - which is actually that of a third party and only hosted by Charity Navigator - is in fact a subjective platform that does no fact-checking or review. Nor does Charity Navigator include a visible notice to readers that these comments are not part of Charity Navigator’s own site. As such this contradicts the essence of the public trust put in Charity Navigator as an objective ranking system. That Charity Navigator’s only suggested recourse is the active posting of positive comments by the organization is a matter that we encourage all to bring to the attention of Charity Navigator as has RI. We recognize as laudable that Charity Navigator is constantly upgrading and improving its systems and we are sure that Charity Navigator will take such public comments into consideration.
c) Vendor vs. Sub-recipient Determination: The complainant seems to allege wrongdoing here. To be sure in developing this process RI conducted a wide search of the existing best practices among peer organizations. Since I was personally involved in this process (as was the complainant) I say with confidence that RI’s established process is not only in compliance with USG regulations but is a stricter form compared to the norm. RI requires two senior managers from different department to attest to the results of the determination compared to the norm of just one reviewer. In addition, we took the step of having our external auditors of record, who audit the largest number of international non-profits review our proposed process before it was adopted to ensure full compliance with regulations. These are facts that the complainant either ignores or just was inattentive to. Again, that the complainant chose to present this accusation in a public platform that does not conduct fact-checking rather than bring this to the attention of the Board’s Audit and/or Finance Committees who would certainly examine the facts speaks for itself. Regardless, RI management has forwarded this and all the complainant’s comments in their entirety to the Board for review in line with our policies and practices of accountability and transparency.
Farshad Rastegar, PhD
President & CEO
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