Let’s Give the Red Cross Some Credit – update

Recently, I had a conversation with Mindy Mizell, Director of Media Relations at Red Cross HQ. As you might expect she is concerned about the negative publicity the Red Cross has been receiving in recent months. As readers of this blog, as well as Eric Holdeman’s blog (Disaster-zone.com), know both Eric and I are trying to provide a balanced view of the Red Cross in our postings.

Mindy mentioned that both FEMA and the Red Cross have been extremely busy this calendar year. And she was kind enough to pull together some statistics that show what the Red Cross has done so far this year. Here are the latest stats:

* American Red Cross has responded to 15 major disasters already this 2016, so far 50% more than last year (ie. N. Texas tornadoes, Louisiana floodings, WV floodings, Hurricane Matthew, California wildfires, etc.)

* Since January, volunteers and staff have responded with extraordinary efforts including:
– More than 191,000 overnight stays provided in 604 shelters
– More than 3.6 million meals and snacks
– More than 1.8 million relief items distributed
– More than 27,000 cases opened to provide one-on-one support

* The Red Cross estimates response efforts in 2016 will collectively cost nearly $87 million  – but as of Oct 26, we’ve only raised $53 million to cover these events – a gap of nearly $34 million.

* Already this year, the Red Cross has assigned 26,478, compared to 15,840 in 2015 and 9,923 in 2015.

* Since June 2012 when the Red Cross launched its 1st app, there have been 9.2 million downloads of the now 13 mobile apps available.

Update:  please see comments from folks in the field.




4 thoughts on “Let’s Give the Red Cross Some Credit – update

  1. Joseph Martin III, I couldn’t agree more. Also, as someone who’s stood in the back of food trucks with hot food sloshing around while being tossed around right along with it – those figures are pretty meaningless, in both quality and quantity. But more importantly, yes, its the abject inability to acknowledge its many, many issues and problems, and more than occasional failings, in any honest responsible good faith manner that has slowly left me, and many, many other long-standing volunteers, having lost both a lot of faith and respect in the organization. I honestly can’t express how sad writing that statement makes me. For the longest time, on deployment after deployment, I just tried to roll up my sleeves and attempt to make the organization better, because I felt like it had a lot of heart frankly as an organization. But that eventually started feeling like just so much wasted effort, especially in relation to an organization that seems congenitally incapable of admitting it has any problems, or made any real mistakes, or perhaps needs to start doing some things differently – and eventually just started feeling truly dishonest to me both internally and with the donor public, who I assure you the Red Cross is absolutely terrified will find out about its problems.

    And now, the ARC is in such bad shape, that I honestly don’t know where its going to go from here. It’s lost a ton of volunteers, and its made many decisions for financial reasons that have recently taken it down some very wrong paths, IMHO, in terms of basic volunteer recruitment, management and retention and training in particular, as well as disaster relief client services more generally. But perhaps more than anything its the sheer extent to which the ARC has again and again gone in the exact opposite direction in relation to the lessons learned and major recommendations made to the Red Cross by both IRC bodies and groups, and from Congress and other independent players in the U.S. And anyone who’s been around the ARC for awhile knows that all of this is about nothing more or less than past years of royal financial mismanagement, and the gargantuan payments that are now coming due because of it.

    For obvious reasons, I’ve refrained from talking about almost any of the specific aspects of my experience which are as mouth-dropping as any that have appeared in the exposes, which certainly sounded familiar and rang true for me in relation to my own on the ground experiences and observations. But I will say that as a Red Cross volunteer I and others have actually been refused service and asked to leave places because of how angry local disaster survivors were at the ARC in general. I will also say that I have sat around staff shelters eating with 4-6 figure donors who had decided to deploy who swore they would never donate another dime because they were so appalled at the level of mismanagement they saw all around them long enough to know that all of the complaints are simply not primarily about a ton of very different kinds of people all just somehow being endlessly confused about how difficult it is to respond to a disaster. Discussing the long-standing problems with the Red Cross is a much longer, larger conversation, but I am hardly alone in also being willing to say that the Red Cross suffers tremendously from a very for-profit corporate culture and mentality the further toward the top you go, that neither knows nor seems to care very much about the real world of either nonprofit or relief or mass care management – and that more than anything has a very long history of simply NOT LISTENING to the real people (both volunteers and what few staff are left) on the ground who are out there trying to do the actual work of it, and in every meaningful way ARE the Red Cross.

  2. ann thornhill, that is simply not the case. It is primarily either other non-profit or other relief workers or the general public, red cross staff and volunteers themselves – and more recently, and even more alarmingly, it is other emergency management professionals on the ground that are complaining like I’ve never heard before – and those complaints are ALL fundamentally very well founded, unfortunately.

  3. all you have to do is talk to victims. They are so thankful for a safe, warm, dry place to sleep and food till their brains and bodies can/do adjust to the horrible thing that has happened, to know Red Cross is appreciated by many.
    It is those who do nothing or want everything handed to them that complain.

  4. I would expect Media Relations at ARC to respond with such facts and figures. What seems worse than whatever real and perceived failings ARC may have, is the ongoing failure to publicly acknowledge ANY failings. Greater transparency not facts and figures is the answer…

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