Don’t Donate to the Red Cross

Kaitlin Mahar

Since the Midwest was devastated by the tornadoes and severe thunderstorms that tore through the area in mid-November, every celebrity and remotely well-known public figure has pointed people in the direction of the American Red Cross and urged them all to donate to the organization’s disaster relief fund.

While nobody is required to donate to the Red Cross during times of crisis such as this, it’s no secret that anyone who refuses to donate does immediately face the judgmental wrath of those who are presumably much more charitable. Subsequently, these misanthropic cheapskates fall into the “heartless” or “selfish” categories of society. Because that’s what they are – heartless and selfish, right? Or maybe, those who choose not to donate are actually the smart ones.

The Red Cross collects millions of dollars per year raised for various disaster relief funds and selling donated blood, but according to CNN Money, for every dollar the charity makes, nine cents goes toward company expenses and employee salaries. This does not include the benefits received by the President and CEO of the Red Cross, Gail J. McGovern, whose salary in 2010 was about $1,032,022, according to Forbes.

The Red Cross has a history of being accused of collecting more funds than needed for disaster relief and using them for other purposes, as exemplified in the controversy after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Red Cross collected over $1.1 billion for their “Liberty Fund,” only to actually give $200 million to victims of the attacks and other emergency needs, a disgraceful 18.2% of the funds raised. In response to the vast public outcry when these statistics came to light, the Red Cross issued a statement saying it did not realize that donors would be so opposed to allocating the funds to other projects, and that one of these projects would be to “fight the war on terror.”

But the organization did not learn its lesson – a similar incident happened after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. As of late May 2013, the Huffington Post reported that of the $303 million raised for survivors of the disaster, the Red Cross had spent no more than one third of the funds. The reason, the organization says, was that they were planning to spread the money out to help people as more needs and problems arise.

Kathleen McCarthy, director of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Civil Society at the City University of New York, disagreed with the Red Cross’s attitude towards spending the donations, saying that the money could have been used during the winter, a time that hit Hurricane Sandy victims the hardest: “People were cold. Homes mildewed. There wasn’t enough decent housing… Given the lingering despair, it’s hard to understand the argument that ‘We are setting that money aside.’”

These are only a couple of examples of the common tactic used by the Red Cross to make a profit over the years. While funds are donated from the charity to those in need, only a fraction of these funds actually are used to help those in need in the wake of disaster, and even less goes toward those actually affected by the disaster for which the money is collected.

It’s understandable to want to help those in need in the wake of a disaster – it is our inherent obligation as human beings to help out our neighbors. So feel free to donate to those affected by the natural disasters in the Midwest, and any other areas where tragedies strike. Send food, water, and other necessities. Donate blood, clothes, blankets, and household items. Even volunteer your time by helping disaster relief efforts if you can, and urge your family and friends to do the same. But if you want to make an actual difference, don’t donate to the Red Cross.