How badly managed is the Red Cross?

posted at 7:01 pm on October 29, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

Back in July I wrote a piece which questioned how effectively the Red Cross was spending the massive amounts of money which generous donors send to them to perform their missions of mercy. The answer, unfortunately turned out to be that it’s a trade secret. Still, even with disturbing questions like that hanging over it, I found it difficult to be too critical of an organization which so diligently shows up to provide relief to the needy, particularly in times of crisis. But a new, extensive report from Pro Publica has raised disturbing questions about not only inefficiency in the management of the organization, but in their motives and methods to keep the public in the dark.

I caught wind of this story at Bloomberg, where Barry Ritholtz compiles a list of sins which go beyond simply failing to pack enough batteries for the flashlights.

• Despite plenty of advance warning of Sandy, the Red Cross lacked basics such as food, blankets and batteries to distribute to victims after the storm.

• Red Cross workers weren’t provided with the usual GPS devices. Many got lost driving around the New York area and were unable to deliver aid and supplies.

• As many as half of the emergency meals prepared for Sandy victims were wasted or never delivered.

• The Red Cross failed to deliver food, water, shelter, cleaning supplies, blankets to survivors of Sandy until weeks after the storm. Mormon and Amish volunteers, on the other hand, were delivering supplies just three days after the storm.

• Red Cross supervisors ordered dozens of empty trucks to be driven around, “just to be seen,” in lieu of delivering relief supplies.

The last item on the list – along with similar, shocking events in the report – speak of a media diversion tactic, not just poor logistical management. There is a difference between making a mistake, being bad at your job, and spending time and resources to try to hide exactly how badly you are doing from the public. The coverage of the activities of the Red Cross in recent years seems to document a slow progression between those three stages of #fail, as the kids like to say.

Last year I was down in Tennessee covering the VW auto workers union debate and happened to speak with a person who told me that they never donated blood any more during the company Red Cross blood drives. The reason given was that they just stockpile it and sell it all, so it’s not like poor people in accidents are getting it for free. I wrote that woman off as some sort of conspiracy theorist and went on my merry way. But the more stories like this I saw, the more I began to wonder if I was writing her off too quickly.

And then I saw this. We should never assume that anyone is beyond scrutiny, no matter how much of a charitable icon they may be.


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Comments

There is a difference between making a mistake, being bad at your job, and spending time and resources to try to hide exactly how badly you are doing from the public

Which is why I no longer donate to the Red Cross. I’ll give to organizations that are interested in actually helping than in being perceived as helping.

rbj on October 29, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Bushies fault.

Von Kleist on October 29, 2014 at 7:09 PM

And then I saw this. We should never assume that anyone is beyond scrutiny, no matter how much of a charitable icon they may be.

They should all be under close scrutiny.

I do not donate to the Red Cross… no blood. no money.

Cody1991 on October 29, 2014 at 7:12 PM

Salvation Army-Yes
Red Cross-No

Jackson on October 29, 2014 at 7:13 PM

I bet the Red Crescent is 1000% worse.

portlandon on October 29, 2014 at 7:14 PM

Salvation Army-Yes
Red Cross-No

Jackson on October 29, 2014 at 7:13 PM

This.

Also, I quit donating to the Goodwill, and give only to the Salvation army.

portlandon on October 29, 2014 at 7:15 PM

Red Cross management gets paid no matter how effective they perform. Therefore, from a top down perspective, the Red Cross is managed very well.

Freddy on October 29, 2014 at 7:22 PM

I know that support dropped drastically when it was found that the local head of the Red Cross was PAID in excess of $1 MILLION per year. She was always in the society section of the paper, attending HIGH DOLLAR functions, with sumptuous meals. When these facts came out, she was replaced by an individual with a much lower pay check and public profile.

Go figure.

GarandFan on October 29, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Why not just get involved with a local church or civic group where you can see, know, and be a part of the human response to human need?

Joan of Argghh on October 29, 2014 at 7:26 PM

I support only four (4) charitable organizations…a Veterans Service Organization, the Salvation Army, a Dog Rescue, and a children’s home.

Never trusted the Red Cross, and never will.

Gothguy on October 29, 2014 at 7:28 PM

But it’s for the children.

Walter L. Newton on October 29, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Those SOBs told my 85 year old aunt that they didn’t need her anymore as a volunteer. It broke her heart. Won’t give them a penny.

Fallon on October 29, 2014 at 7:34 PM

Organizations as big as Red Cross and Goodwill serve mainly as ticket punching jobs for many leftists. No charity organization should be paying top dollar.

TQM38a on October 29, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Oh yeah! That American Red Cross. You know, the one that charges our soldiers for coffee and a doughnut when overseas. Or is it the one who reacted to AIDS/Blood Crisis by sitting their techs in “rubber rooms”, doing nothing, because they protested the short cuts demanded by the pimplely faced new managers they put in place to get it done. That is why we have a rivan, and much more successful blood bank, in these parts. They do go out to house fires though, to give out small clothing vouchers for the local department store. I don’t really know whether they charge fire fighters for coffee.

The ARmy used to demand a voluntary donation to the ARC every month. This was hated with passion by all the troops. When I went to work in industry, most of the companies demanded donations to the ARC, but knew better than to demand that from vets. In this area, they tended toward a United Way substitute.

Doughnut anyone? $1.00 please.

Old Country Boy on October 29, 2014 at 7:44 PM

rivN S/B RIVAL

Old Country Boy on October 29, 2014 at 7:46 PM

As someone with experience providing relief during Katrina- The Red Cross had the most money, but the Salvation Army ended up doing more for the evacuees.

Valiant on October 29, 2014 at 7:47 PM

I quit donating to them right after I quite the United Way.

I am generous with donations…but I want to know where it’s going and how much is administrative vs. the actual cause I’m supporting.

If I find out they’re using my money for liberal causes…no more $.

celt on October 29, 2014 at 7:52 PM

Ask them why they are paying for an expensive software called The Raiser’s Edge, that was developed by Blackbaud. It’s VERY expensive, and does nothing you can’t do with an Excel spreadsheet.

SouthernGent on October 29, 2014 at 7:55 PM

We quit supporting them after 9/11 when they tried to pull shenanigans and quietly use money raised and donated specifically for 9/11 related stuff to build new Headquarters buildings and other infrastructure projects.

Johnnyreb on October 29, 2014 at 7:59 PM

My job is disaster work – in the last two years I was a first-responder to the Moore-OK tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy, to name two big ones. The Red Cross had a moderate footprint in Moore, but was nowhere to be found in Jersey in the critical first two weeks after the hurricane. When I was finally allowed down to the hardest-hit neighborhoods, the only relief there were Latter Day Saints youth missionaries helping people salvage what little they had left, house-by-house. Along with insurance people and FEMA people that was it – no Red Cross, no United Way, and no government services from the Federal or State level, even though god knows how much money was directed for just that.

If you are the type who is compelled to give when disaster strikes fellow Americans, I applaud you, but the best thing to do is call shelters and churches local to the disaster – that’s where your money will help immediately.

King B on October 29, 2014 at 8:03 PM

We quit supporting them after 9/11 when they tried to pull shenanigans and quietly use money raised and donated specifically for 9/11 related stuff to build new Headquarters buildings and other infrastructure projects.

Johnnyreb on October 29, 2014 at 7:59 PM

I was just going to say the same thing, although I didn’t realize it was for their own buildings. Whatever it was, they took money that donors specifically designated for one thing, and used it for something else without permission. That has permanently soured me on the Red Cross, and the stuff being posted today just adds to my bad impression.

ajb3 on October 29, 2014 at 8:07 PM

There is a difference between making a mistake, being bad at your job, and spending time and resources to try to hide exactly how badly you are doing from the public.

Wait, was this article about the Red Cross, or the Obama administration?

Oh yeah, I went there!

Lance Corvette on October 29, 2014 at 8:39 PM

• Despite plenty of advance warning of Sandy, the Red Cross lacked basics such as food, blankets and batteries to distribute to victims after the storm.

What? The citizens of the area have no responsibility to take better care of themselves? Sandy didn’t just come out of nowhere. Too many people were ill-prepared – and much of the blame rests with them.

I never gave the Red Cross or United Way. I prefer local churches and charities.

Hill60 on October 29, 2014 at 8:52 PM

The Red Cross was questionable around 9/11 and many other national tragedies.

Viator on October 29, 2014 at 8:56 PM

Haven’t had a scrap of respect for the Red Cross since their fund-raising bonanza after 9/11.

Ask the folks who volunteer on the ground at disasters about their opinion of the Red Cross. You’ll get an earful.

Dolce Far Niente on October 29, 2014 at 9:01 PM

I never donate to RC, only the Salvation Army, and I’m not even Christian. They even charged soldiers for doughnuts and coffee overseas.

DanielObrien42 on October 29, 2014 at 9:09 PM

How badly managed is the Red Cross?

Looks like it may be time to back off on the Red Cross and start to put a little something into its sister organization, The American Red Crotch.

Mimzey on October 29, 2014 at 10:07 PM

My job is disaster work – in the last two years I was a first-responder to the Moore-OK tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy, to name two big ones. The Red Cross had a moderate footprint in Moore, but was nowhere to be found in Jersey in the critical first two weeks after the hurricane. When I was finally allowed down to the hardest-hit neighborhoods, the only relief there were Latter Day Saints youth missionaries helping people salvage what little they had left, house-by-house. Along with insurance people and FEMA people that was it – no Red Cross, no United Way, and no government services from the Federal or State level, even though god knows how much money was directed for just that.

If you are the type who is compelled to give when disaster strikes fellow Americans, I applaud you, but the best thing to do is call shelters and churches local to the disaster – that’s where your money will help immediately.

King B on October 29, 2014 at 8:03 PM

Kudos to all the churches and organizations that are more interested in helping people than in padding their own pockets.
Donating to trustworthy locals instead of nationals is like giving directly to candidates instead of the PACs and RNC: lots more bang for the buck.

The LDS Church has been doing humanitarian projects since it was founded in the 1830s. A few years ago, the Church added a specific line-item on donation slips for members to give directly to “Humanitarian Relief” and every penny goes to that service. Volunteers include missionaries serving in the area and local members, who are organized effectively and promptly, even distant members (our Stake President in Colorado went to help in LA after Katrina, and he is one among very, very many who did so).

One of our family was in charge of some of the efforts in the Cedar Rapids flood a few years back; his Bishop cancelled part of the usual Sunday worship activities to get the members organized for action.

Outside of disaster relief, Mormon youth and adults sponsor frequent community service projects (including Eagle Scout projects; hope we don’t have to sever that relationship), and missionaries are required to spent around 15 hours a week on service-related activities.

This long reply is to counter some of the demonizing done about the Mormons; equal time, and all that. Anyone interested in preparing for disasters may want to consult the LDS websites for lots of useful information.

AesopFan on October 29, 2014 at 11:01 PM

Nothing sweeter than making a profit off scammed altruistic suckers is there?

[email protected] on October 29, 2014 at 11:09 PM

As someone with experience providing relief during Katrina- The Red Cross had the most money, but the Salvation Army ended up doing more for the evacuees.

Valiant on October 29, 2014 at 7:47 PM

I was down after Katrina too. If you really care about relief efforts, give to the local churches in the area. Most of the work was being done by churches, yet when I got back home all the bragging was by those who donated to the Red Cross. After what I saw, I will give blood, but not one dime to that @ssholes. (And yes, the brief contact we had with them, they were complete @ssholes.)

GREEDY organization!

dominigan on October 30, 2014 at 9:01 AM

The last time I gave to the Red cross was after 9-11 when all the money they collected was to go to help with that tragedy. When in fact only a percentage of the collected money did. Lost faith in them and will never give to them again. Other charities are on my radar.

rjoco1 on October 30, 2014 at 11:19 AM

Been giving blood to them for nearly 50 years. What gives?

StevC on October 30, 2014 at 6:01 PM