Spencer: Red Cross efforts are deceptive, donate relief funds elsewhere

Spencer Reed

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

Unfortunate and destructive events such as Hurricane Harvey and Irma have taken a toll on the Southern United States. Per usual with any major natural disaster, Americans are eager to help. Finding a method to help those affected by recent natural disasters, especially all the way from Fort Collins, can be tedious. Many Americans have ended up donating to the American Red Cross (ARC), however, this has proven to be an ineffective way to improve the lives of those that are in need.

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Only seven years ago, an earthquake shook the foundations of Haiti, and the Red Cross was able to muster $500 million in donation funds. The organization subsequently spent a fifth of that money on internal expenses; an overwhelming $125 million.

The Red Cross took the remainder of their Haiti funds and dispersed them to other small nonprofit organizations. These nonprofits took another 11 percent of the donated cash for their own internal program expenses. This reveals two things: the Red Cross has other organizations doing at least a portion of the charitable work that the ARC claims to be doing, and that their statement that 91 cents of every donated dollar goes into relief efforts is a fib.

More shockingly, the American Red Cross built a dismal number of six permanent homes in response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010. That’s right, only six permanent homes were built with the enormous $500 million capital that the disaster relief organization started with.

Representatives of the Red Cross responded to criticism revolving around how they spent their Haiti funds stating their spending was, “entirely justifiable given the size and complexity of the Haiti program.”

I believe that the organization’s spending habits were entirely unjustifiable.

More recently, the nonprofit organization, Charity Navigator, presented the Red Cross with a three out of four rating on the organizations relief efforts. On the other hand, the ARC was given only a two rating on their fiscal performances.

When asked to disclose what amount of donations given to the Hurricane Harvey Red Cross effort, the group was reluctant to give a response.

“Yeah, I don’t think I know the answer to that,” said Brad Kieserman, a Red Cross executive, “I don’t know the answer to the financial question, I’m afraid.”

It’s concerning that the organization cannot say what percent of donations are actually being utilized in relief efforts. This is especially true knowing that Red Cross CEO, Gail McGovern, has previously made the claim that over 90 percent of donations go into their services.

For those in Fort Collins that wish to make most impact on the lives affected by recent natural disasters in Texas, I advise them to donate to United Way of Greater Houston. According to Charity Navigator, this organization puts over 87 percent of their funds into the services they promise to deliver. Moreover, the Houston Food Bank may be another wise organization to donate funds too; they put 96 percent of their donations into their programs.

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More transparent organizations exist in regard to the hurricane relief as well. All Hands Volunteers is one of them. Over 87 percent of the funds donated to them go directly into their cause. Americares is another disaster option, and a staggering 98 percent of their donated revenue is therein put towards their relief efforts.

If you are trying to make a difference in the lives affected by recent natural disasters, donating to the American Red Cross is not the way to go. Their track record reveals that their donated funds are misappropriated, which is building the organization an increasingly worse reputation among disaster relief groups.

Spencer Reed can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @sbreed96.