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American Red Cross unsure of where donations go

by Jordan Soldaczewski - Staff Writer
Tue, Sep 12th 2017 11:20 pm

With a second hurricane hitting the United States within a week of the first, Americans are opening their wallets to donate to the victims of the affected areas. Automatically, well-known organizations like the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army come to mind in these situations. 

What has been in question is whether or not these organizations, notably Red Cross, are truly using the donations received directly toward the current disaster at hand or if they are pocketing a large portion of the money for administrative purposes. 

In 2010, after the earthquake in Haiti, NPR reported that 25 percent of the donations made in response to the disaster went toward internal spending. In other words, $125 million out of the $500 million donated were put toward internal expenses. Red Cross officials said the use of the money was “entirely justifiable given the size and complexity of the Haiti program.” 

NPR recently interviewed Brad Kieserman, the Red Cross vice president for Disaster Operations and Logistics. 

“The folks I work for are very, very attentive to cost effectiveness and cost efficiencies in making sure that as much as every dollar that we spend on an operation is client-facing,” Kieserman said when talking to NPR reporter Ailsa Chang. “We are a relief organization. For many people, the Red Cross is an iconic organization and I think it’s important that they see the hope that it brings but there’s a difference between seeing hope and actually using resources in a way that helps them. We are committed, I am committed, my team is committed to using our resources and donor dollars in a way that best helps the people of Texas.”

Every 91 cents of a dollar spent by Red Cross goes toward relief; however, Kieserman claimed that he did not know how much money actually went toward relief because it is not something he has visibility on in his current role. Red Cross is not being transparent with how much money goes towards relief versus internal costs. While it is completely understandable that there are things to pay for on the internal side of nonprofits to ensure everything is being properly run, I don't think that 25 percent is very justifiable. Not to mention, Red Cross has been known for misusing funds in the past. 

During Hurricane Isaac in 2012, they allocated resources for public relation campaigns and it was revealed they drove around empty trucks to boost their image and encourage more donations. Since then the integrity of the Red Cross has been in question when it comes to its spending. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dollars used to pay each executive board member every year.

Red Cross is an organization which provides immediate assistance during a disaster. Donations are used to provide victims with blankets, hygiene products, shelter and food. But what happens with all the money that is left over? Where will all the money which was supposed to go toward the current disaster victims go now? 

The money could have instead gone towards organizations which help with the rebuilding of the affected neighborhoods and caring for the sick and injured victims. 

Some organizations that might be more beneficial to these disasters are nonprofits like Doctors Without Borders, Habitat For Humanity and even local organizations of the affected areas raising money for that specific community. 

Once you donate to a national organization, there is no way to determine if your money will be used for the present time disaster. Efforts like the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, a fund directly out of the mayor's office of Houston, are sure to be used in Houston and the affected surrounding areas. 

Cities will often put out a list of where you can donate to help. Here’s the list for the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey: texastribune.org.

Another important issue is that it is more beneficial to donate money than boxes full of supplies. The boxes will often take a while to get to the victims and sometimes they are not even helpful because the supplies sent may be things that were not needed. Donating money ensures the funds will be allocated toward the areas of highest need.

So, think twice next time you open your wallet and just donate to the first organization that comes to mind. Research who needs funds the most, because it will be more beneficial to your wallet and to the lives of natural disaster victims.

 

jsold1@u.brockport.edu