Red Cross

"As a former volunteer for the Red Cross and as someone who has read over their tax filings more carefully than most members of the public, I'd like to scribble down a few of the ways in which the organization is dysfunctional."

The stuff I've been reading about the Red Cross lately makes me regret having given them money just after Katrina hit; but at the time (and even now) I didn't really hear any better (non-vague) suggestions.

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35 Responses:

  1. ckd says:

    America's Second Harvest has good efficiency ratings in the Forbes charity data, and I've never heard of any scandals or dysfunctions they've had. (Also, they pay their top person something like 1/3 of what the American Red Cross pays theirs.) Also, unlike the Salvation Army or other organizations, they aren't a religious organization. At this point, I figure that they and Habitat for Humanity are probably my best bets for donating to help folks who need it, whether due to the hurricanes or "merely" the vagaries of life.

  2. ch says:

    ditto. am eager to hear other suggestions too.

  3. thomtoffner says:

    I've heard good things about MercyCorps.

    They claim 92% efficiency (which is only marginally higher than RedCross, but I haven't heard anything negative about them).

    I guess that's still pretty vague.


    • nugget says:

      MercyCorps is who I chose in the wake of Katrina (along with a local food bank, since I live near enough to the affected areas for local charities to have assisted).

      In addition to wanting an organization which was less corrupt than the Red Cross, I was also motivated to find a secular organization which wasn't using my dollars to promote Christian mythology to a captive, refugee audience. This constraint ruled out most of the organizations I could find, in particular the Salvation Army which otherwise looked quite acceptable to me. I'd recommend the Salvation Army to anyone who does not share my aversion to "faith based" organizations.

      The limited research I performed led me to view MercyCorps as be a reputable organization that was uncluttered by religious dogma.

      • candid says:

        I did the same thing.

        (My "research" consisted mostly of digging around on their website, making sure "god" wasn't mentioned anywhere.)

        (Also the fact that they were headquarted in Oregon seemed like a good sign.)

  4. fo0bar says:

    My comprehensive review of the Red Cross: "they can't possibly be worse than the United Way."

    • spoonyfork says:

      Some businesses include United Way donations in performance reviews. Extra points if you set up direct deposit from every paycheck. Give 'til it hurts.

  5. icis_machine says: had ok ratings from them, but obviously numbers can fog a lot things.

    why didn't you just go down to nola with jacob and setup networks? i hear you have a knack with computers.

    • jwz says:

      I'm allergic to bullets. Following Jake anywhere sounds unhealthy.

      • iota says:

        i think they have a cream that you can apply that helps soothe the effects of that allergy. the name is something like "blind patriotism", ask your pharmacist

      • ioerror says:

        Oh come on Jamie, I hear Burma is fantastic this time of year!


    • fgmr says:

      What are you talking about? His "knack" with computers -- well, the hardware at least -- is getting them to spontaneously commit suicide.

  6. dasht_brk says:

    I don't endorse this (ignorance -- I can't judge it) but people I do like endorse this source. Here's a link to Mark Cooper on Red Cross negativity and alternatives.


  7. silnith says:

    I’ve heard that the American Red Cross has a lot of problems, but that the International Red Cross is stellar.

  8. myasma says:

    I just got back from spending three weeks working in a Red Cross shelter, providing direct medical assistance to about 600 people who were displaced by Katrina. My partner, deployed from a local chapter in Colorado, arrived the morning after the storm and spent her first 26 hours without sleep, providing care to the people coming out of NOLA.

    We spent a lot of Red Cross money. We sent hundreds of prescriptions to local pharmacies to replace medicine lost in the disaster. We replaced lost eyeglasses. We provided initial treatment to about 50 people a day for anything from odd rashes to myocardial infarctions. There was a red cross nurse available 24 hours a day to the people sheltered there.

    I don't know what goes on in the upper levels of the Red Cross bureaucracy. It's probably as screwed up as anything else. I do know that at the level I worked at, we, as Red Cross volunteers, made a difference in these peoples' lives.

    If you don't want to regret having sent money to the Red Cross, just think of it as having paid my way there.

  9. pir_anha says:

    charity navigator, an independent charity evaluator, helps in finding an organisation that might suit you better. at least it makes for a good start. there's also the american institute of philanthropy, which hasn't yet twigged to putting their damn database online, and the BBB's wise giving alliance; all watchdog organisations.

    but read this article first, because it talks about what the watchdogs give those ratings for, and that might not jive with your concerns.

  10. krick says:

    fuck the humans. they know better than to build houses 10 feet below sea level but do it anyway.

    donate to help the pets. they were left to starve to death...

    • substitute says:

      Please commit suicide. Thanks.

    • gytterberg says:

      Hallelujah. Besides which, your money goes farther with animal aid groups. They don't have quite the same ability to rake it in as the megacharities.

      I'm not sure if I'd give money to the (American) Red Cross, but I'll certainly give them blood. It's pretty hard to squander that on bureaucracy, unless they've got a vampire problem.

      • rcr203 says:

        While I wouldn't go as far as to say 'fuck the humans' (albiet, I'm sure it was sarcastic, however uncooth), I, too, recommend donating to the pet relief.

        Shelters across the nation have been taxed, as they are looking to place animals they have so they can open room up for Katrina and now Rita pets. (so, adopt away, people!)

        The funds also go towards food, transportation, foster homes, medical care and so on for the animals.

    • master_meio says:

      dearest misanthrope
      you are everything you hate
      please shut the fuck up

  11. substitute says:

    Due to a longstanding hatred of the Red Cross that began when my grandfather was charged for coffee during the First World War, I won't have a thing to do with them.

    I gave to Oxfam, who is doing long-range rebuilding in a real world social context, and to Habitat for Humanity, who makes houses. Oxfam is particularly good in this instance; they are concentrating their efforts in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes which were the hardest hit and are the poorest.

  12. dr_gluck_ says:

    I know a person or 3 who went down there and are helping with Common Ground Relief.

  13. boonedog says:

    In situations like this I feel better giving to Mercy Corp.

  14. darkengobot says:

    As it happens, I have family in the affected region, so nearly all of my "charity" money has gone towards them. If you can look out for your own, that's preferable, because that reduces their needs and therefore reduces their impact on other charities so the charities can concentrate on the needy.

    Beyond that, I donate to local ad-hoc church organizations. A large Methodist church in town stepped up and offered their facilities as a distribution point. They would take in donations, sort them, and distribute them to local shelters and down to the coast according to need and what they had available. Everything was done on a volunteer basis, so the overhead was tiny. These tend to be less polished affairs than a MercyCorps or Red Cross, but they're not less effective for it.

    The desire for a big, central organization to coordinate things like this is strong, but that's fraught with all the dangers that big, central organizations have always had.

    In Mississippi, the largest problem was communication. Once people learned that a city had needs, people stepped up to help. But until the problems were known, nobody really thought about it. I'd like to donate money to an effort to have nerds in minivans set up long-distance WiFi nets or something similar to provide temporary emergency communications in the event of a disaster. A vehicle, generator, a router or two, some access points and a tall pole with a Pringles can on top can provide (limited) VoIP and Internet access for a small town and connect it to another station several miles away.

  15. killdash9 says:

    Myself and a few guys from my Land Rover group got off our asses and went down there. We raised somewhere near $3K from friends and family and loaded up trailers with goods bought at Costco. With our 4x4s and chainsaws we went in to places where, over 3 weeks after the hurricane, FEMA and the Red Cross hadn't even shown up. We handed out 2 trailer loads of food, generators, and gasoline to people in poor, rural areas. The Red Cross seemed to be sticking to bigger towns and areas. I don't blame them, bang-for-the-buck and all I guess. Why go into an area where there's only a couple dozen folks when you can setup somewhere else and get 100x that. The folks down there didn't have a favorable opinion of the Red Cross either.

    You can get warm fuzzies from donating money to relief groups or you can go there and help folks directly.

    I don't know the last time I felt as good as when I got this smile from a girl after giving her a $2 toy.

  16. misuba says:

    There's the Rockridge Institute if you're interested in contributing to prevention efforts.

    Not hurricane prevention, no, but I'm told that people are working on that too.

  17. hweimei says:

    I've put together a benefit concert for the Tipitina's Foundation, because I like the idea of musicians helping musicians.