Direct Relief Logo
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LAST UPDATED: June 27th, 2019

Direct Relief started with humble beginnings in the aftermath of World War II. William Zimdin, an Estonian immigrant, began sending large relief parcels to friends, relatives, and former employees in Europe. In 1948, he founded the William Zimdin Foundation, which was headquartered in California. The foundation grew into what is now called Direct Relief. Direct Relief offers assistance to those affected by poverty or natural disasters, with a focus on caring to maternal health and providing medical and pharmaceutical supplies and equipment.

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The Good

  • Total income
  • Administrative expenses
  • Fundraising expenses
  • Program percentage
  • Accessible financial information
  • Donor communication
  • Awards

Total Income

Direct Relief has reported growing annual revenue over the last several years: 2015: $888,650,367 2014: $449,961,212 2013: $388,338,645 2012: $299,636,453

Administrative Expenses

An area which is often scrutinized by current and potential donors is the amount of the charity's budget which is spent on administrative expenses, especially the salaries of the executives. Direct Relief only uses about 0.5 percent of annual revenue for administrative expenses, which is very low.

Fundraising Expenses

Direct Relief spent 0.3 percent of its annual revenue on fundraising in 2015, which is consistent with the performance metrics of past years. In addition, the organization's fundraising efficiency is outstanding-for every dollar raised by Direct Relief, less than 1 cent is spent on fundraising.

Program Percentage

An important indicator the quality of a charity is the percentage of its annual revenue which is used for program delivery. Direct Relief has an exemplary record for allocating high percentages of its annual revenue for program delivery. In 2015, 99.2 percent of the organization's annual revenue was used for program delivery, which is impressive!

Accessible Financial Information

Direct Relief's annual reports, audited financial statements, and IRS Form 990s are all easily accessible on the organization's website. These documents are available for 2001 to 2015.

Donor Communication

Direct Relief communicates with donors and other interested parties through several channels. The organization provides an informative e-newsletter, as well as operates robust social media profiles. Individuals can subscribe to or connect with Direct Relief's RSS Feed, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Flickr, and YouTube accounts.


Direct Relief has been widely recognized for its mission delivery, program efficiency, and developments. Direct Relief has received over one hundred awards and recognitions since 1994, including:
  • # 1 on The Top 10 Charities Changing the World in 2015 awarded by CNBC
  • #8 on The World's Most Innovative Companies (Non-Profit Category) by Fast Company-Direct Relief was recognized for its efforts in mapping for the Ebola crisis
  • Special Achievement in GIS Award by Esri as a recognition of Direct Relief's integral role in developing map applications to support the "One Million Community Health Workers" campaign
  • Clinton Global Citizen Awards was awarded by The Clinton Global Initiative. This award recognizes "exemplary leadership and groundbreaking work that has effected positive, lasting social change"
  • First Place, Story Map at the Esri User Conference, which recognized the story map which was created during the One Million Community Health Worker campaign
  • Second Place, Best Use of Esri's API, which was also awarded at the Esri User Conference

The Bad

  • Negative press

Negative Press

Most of the negative press that Direct Relief has been involved in has to do with comparison to another nonprofit organizations. The following is an example of negative press coverage received by Direct Relief: Overvaluing Donations from Direct Relief by World Help In 2012, Forbes reported that World Help had admitted to "wildly overstating" the value of medical supplies received from Direct Relief. Excusing its behavior and attributing the error to "fraudulent documents," World Help reported that it had more than doubled the value of the donation and filed an amended tax return with the proper figures included. The figures reported by Direct Relief were accurate on its own tax return and its shipping inventories, so it is unclear which documents the CEO of World Help is referring to when he stated that his organization was the victim of "fraudulent documents."

The Bottom Line

Direct Relief has been providing immediate and efficient disaster relief and support to people across the world for over sixty years. The organization maintains an excellent ratio of program delivery to annual income; however, Direct Relief has received a bit of negative press in the past. Donors looking for a charitable organization that use a significant portion of their donation for program delivery should consider donating to Direct Relief.
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Angelique Morin NY

While the devastation of Harvey continued, I saw the need specifically for medical care. After submitting my donation online, I realized that my intentions towards Harvey weren't necessarily directed. Soon after donation, I received a receipt and a request for my preference of where I wanted my money to go! Phew, that was easy and nearly ALL of my donation is going immediately to Harvey!!

6 years ago

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Jared Voight Minneapolis, MN

This is an amazing charity to fundraise for. From the moment I applied for the fundraising opportunity to the conclusion of our campaign, the charity worked with me to ensure that i had everything to represent Direct Relief to the best ability. Their work around the entire world to provide equal medical access regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation allows their organization to shine above others, as a truly inspirational and fierceful force for good.

8 years ago

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Stanley Hatch Santa Barbara, CA

This is a fantastic charity. It supplies enormous amounts of medical resources aid in disasters and on a day to day basis in the poorest communities in the U.S. and in 70 foreign countries. Due to their efficiency and transparancy they are able to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid every year.

8 years ago