Posts tagged ‘Red Cross’

December 12, 2014

Is the American Red Cross Hurting Your Fundraising Efforts?

The American Red Cross regularly touts how responsible it is with donors’ money. ‘We’re very proud of the fact that 91 cents of every dollar that’s donated goes to our services,’ Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said in a speech in Baltimore last year. ‘That’s world class, obviously.’

“McGovern has often repeated that figure, which has also appeared on the charity’s website.

“The problem with that number: It isn’t true.”

That stunning revelation was made in a recently released investigative report by ProPublica and NPR.

National Red Cross HQ by NCinDC via Flickr

American Red Cross National Headquarters

The Red Cross is a great organization. My wife and I have been donors. I even did a blog post highlighting the effective stewardship practices at the Red Cross and encouraging readers to support the organization. The American Red Cross does not have to “serially mislead” the public.

Yet, that’s exactly what it has been doing according to the reporters. While the organization has told the public that 91 cents of every donated dollar goes to services, its fundraising cost to raise a dollar has been 17 cents on average. And that does not include organization overhead expenses. Clearly, the Red Cross has not been as efficient as its leader has claimed.

When reporters contacted Red Cross officials for more information, those officials were uncooperative. However, the organization did change the claim on its “website to another formulation it frequently uses: that 91 cents of every dollar the charity ‘spends’ goes to humanitarian services. But that too is misleading to donors,” states the investigative report.

Sadly, this is not the first time that the Red Cross has been accused by the media of misleading the public.

As a Red Cross supporter and a fundraising professional, I’m alarmed and disappointed by the behavior of the Red Cross. Misleading the public, either through lies or the clever manipulation of language, is unnecessary, unethical, and unacceptable.

Such inappropriate behavior erodes public trust, which makes fundraising more difficult. Perhaps this is one reason that the Red Cross has had trouble consistently raising more money. In 2009-10, the Red Cross raised $1.1 billion. In 2012-13, the Red Cross again raised $1.1 billion.

In a study that examined the relationship between trust and philanthropy, researchers Adrian Sargeant and Stephen Lee found, “there would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate.” In addition, “there is some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

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November 26, 2012

Effective Stewardship Before, During, & After the Gift

About a month ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States. New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were especially hard hit. Millions lost electricity and were driven from their homes. Today, thousands remain without power and without homes to return to.

Through it all, the American Red Cross has been there to help those in need.

My wife and I live in Philadelphia. While many in the area were affected by flooding, fallen trees, and loss of power, we were fortunate. We made it through unscathed.

Recognizing that others fared far worse than we did, we went online and donated to the Red Cross. At the time we made the gift, we could designate to a category or to “most needed.” We were able to print a gift receipt on the spot. As an immediate follow-up, the Red Cross emailed a thank you message with a receipt, an outline of all the services the support helps provide, and another opportunity to print out the gift receipt.

Up until that point, the Red Cross had handled the process perfectly and without any surprises.

Then, several days after our contribution, as the disaster began to subside, we received another email with another thank you with the subject line: “You are amazing.” We had to open it. When we did, we were greeted with a personalized salutation and a link to a slideshow illustrating the impact of our giving.

Here’s the text of the email we received:

Dear Lisa and Michael,

My sincere thanks for your generosity over the past ten days. The outpouring of support for the families impacted by Superstorm Sandy has been extraordinary. Whether you have given a financial gift, donated life-saving blood, or volunteered your time, I’m so grateful to so many compassionate people like you in the Red Cross community, as we provide emergency relief and help millions of families recover and get back to their lives. On behalf of the families and individuals we’ve served and will continue to serve in the days and weeks ahead, thank you.

[Slideshow image and link]

We are making a difference together. To date, you have helped us provide more than 61,000 overnight shelter stays, serve 3.2 million meals and snacks to cold and hungry families and distribute more than 121,000 relief items such as warm blankets, cold weather gear, clean-up kits and hygiene kits. We have activated our entire fleet of 323 Emergency Response Vehicles to bring meals, water, information and emotional support to impacted communities and we have deployed nearly 5,900 trained Red Cross workers to support relief efforts.

Our work is far from over, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you. We’ll continue to post updates for those affected by the storm and for our caring Red Cross community on our website.

You are at the heart of our mission to relieve suffering, wherever and whenever we’re needed, and I am so grateful for your support.

Gail McGovern

President and CEO, American Red Cross”

The slideshow contains many moving images of the Red Cross at work. On the same page as the slideshow, there are tabs to access other useful information. For example, visitors can learn how to donate additional funds, how to give blood, how to help beyond donating money, and how to find assistance. The page also contains links to other useful, disaster-related information such as tips for returning home after a disaster and how to download an app to assist with future hurricane preparedness.

The Red Cross giving and thank-you process is effective for a number of reasons:

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