IN RECENT years, the image of the Red Cross has been tarnished. The worst scandal came after the September 11 attacks, when it was revealed that a large portion of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to the organization went not to survivors or family members of those killed, but to other Red Cross operations, in what was described by chapters across the country as a “bait-and-switch” operation.

The Red Cross is known for the help they provide communities from anytime of disaster to home fires and displaced families or individuals.

Surely everyone who gives to that organization, regardless of their politics, wants their donations to be used effectively and that their money to help victims, not pay high salaries for bureaucrats in Red Cross headquarters or expensive public relations campaigns.

The President of the Red Cross makes over $600,000 in salary, the CEO makes over $650,000, the Blood Bank CEO makes over $610,000 and the President of the Biomedical Services makes over $600,000 a year.

In addition, the American Red Cross is not a completely private organization. It is quasi-governmental. I think the term of art is that the group is “a congressionally chartered instrumentality of the United States.” I’m willing to accept that the nonprofit is 85-90 percent private. But because it is quasi-governmental, and the only nonprofit that has a place at the table in national disaster planning, it deserves as much scrutiny as any other government agency.

During the major weather disaster in Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida the Red Cross came under some scrutiny as well.

Recently Hawaii has gone through heavy rain on Kauai and Oahu and then a volcano eruption on the Big Island.

Past event so 911 and Katrina has also seen issues with the Red Cross.

According to Richard M. Walden (president and CEO of Operation USA), it is estimated that 70% of the $1.2 Billion donated to Katrina-related donations went to the Red Cross, yet the Red Cross is fully reimbursed by the government for any shelters or emergency services they provide. Repeatedly, the Red Cross has run into trouble for spending much less on disaster recovery than they collect, shuffling the extra funds into their “national disaster account,” where it can be used for purposes other than that it was collected for. That’s the sort of trouble they saw in the aftermath of the 1989 San Francisco Bay Area earthquake, and after 9/11.

Despite landing in trouble for soliciting more donations than they need and squirreling the rest away, the Red Cross continues to operate this way. The organization makes a total of about $3 billion annually, about half of which is from selling donated blood. Some of this surplus money ends up in disaster relief, but it seems that much does not.

It seems the the main value they offer is the free help of their volunteer force.

The Red Cross also has some disturbing caveats in the agreement form which every volunteer is required to sign. From the BoingBoing article:

Every volunteer for the American Red Cross is required to sign on to an agreement that covers things like proper conduct, confidentiality, and includes a requirement for all volunteers to sign over all copyright/trademark/patent rights in any work-related writing, art and inventions come up with during their term, and for a full year afterward.

Why does the Red Cross need to own the copyrights in the work-related blog postings you make for a year after you stop spending your free evenings handing out cookies to blood-donors? If you write a novel and include some real-life details gleaned from volunteering in a disaster-relief efforts, does the Red Cross really deserve to take all rights to it?

How much money do they actually spend on the things they say they do? 89%

Give to who you want to, just be aware there are other organizations out there that may do a better job with your money than the Red Cross.