Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Want to help people, Red Cross NOT the way to go

From the LA Times, The Red Cross money pit:
As of last week, the American Red Cross reported that it had raised $826 million in private funds for Hurricane Katrina victims. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has the total figure at more than $1.2 billion for all relief groups reporting. So the Red Cross received about 70% of all giving.

This skewed giving to Red Cross would be justified if the organization had to pay the cost of the 300,000 people it has sheltered. But FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under preexisting contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public.

The national Red Cross reports it spent $111 million last year on fundraising alone...donate blood (which it resells to the tune of more than $1.5 billion annually, part of its $3 billion in income).

After 9/11, the Red Cross collected more than $1 billion, a record in philanthropic fundraising after a disaster.

When New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer asked for documentation of 9/11 expenditures, the Red Cross' response was that it is federally chartered and not answerable to state government regulators. The clamor rose...resulted in the resignation of the organization's president...and the appointment of ex-Sen. George Mitchell to oversee its 9/11 fund and help clean up its image. Funds were then pushed out the door — including millions to New York limo drivers who said they lost income after 9/11, and to upscale residents of lower Manhattan to help pay their utility bills...

The Red Cross expects to raise more than $2 billion before Hurricane Katrina-related giving subsides. If it takes care of 300,000 people, that's $7,000 per victim. I doubt each victim under Red Cross care will see more than a doughnut, an interview with a social worker and a short-term voucher for a cheap motel, with a few miscellaneous items such as clothes and cooking pots thrown in.

Americans ought to give a much larger share of their generous charity to community foundations, grass-roots nonprofit groups based in the affected communities and a large number of international "brand name" relief agencies with decades of expertise in rebuilding communities after disasters.

The above excerpt is from an opinion piece by Richard M. Walden, who is president and CEO of Operation USA, a 26-year-old international disaster relief agency based in Los Angeles. Website: www.opusa.org.

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