New Disaster Fund-Raising Practices at Red Cross

The American Red Cross has implemented a national initiative that will expand efforts to educate donors about the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, and institute a new system of affirmative confirmation and acknowledgement to ensure donations are directed as intended. The program is called Donor DIRECT which stands for D(onor) I(ntent) RE(cognition), C(onfirmation) and T(rust).

The Donor DIRECT program makes four important changes in Red Cross fundraising practices:

1. The Red Cross will use the following specific language consistently across all Disaster Relief Fund solicitations including advertising, direct mailings, Web sites, telemarketing and all public communications:

“You can help the victims of [this disaster] and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need.”

2. Donors who make undesignated contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund will be asked to confirm that they understand the purpose for which their donations will be used before their donations are accepted.

3. Donors will receive an acknowledgement after their contributions have been received that will reconfirm their intent and the purposes for which their contributions will be used. These acknowledgements also will instruct donors on what to do if they have any questions about how their contributions will be used.

4. The Red Cross will trigger a fund-raising transition policy in any disaster where it appears that contributions made around the time of the disaster may exceed the cost of the anticipated disaster assistance the organization customarily provides.

The transition policy will explicitly inform potential donors that enough money has been received for the current disaster and encourage them to give to the chapter or to the Disaster Relief Fund to support the victims of future disasters. This policy is intended to avoid a situation where too much money is raised around a disaster which, in turn, creates an expectation that more money will be spent on its victims than is normally the case under standard Red Cross protocols.

“Donor DIRECT is a commitment to strengthen the bond between the Red Cross and millions of donors on whose generosity and trust we rely to respond to disasters every day,” said Harold Decker, Interim President and CEO of the American Red Cross. “It recognizes the absolutely critical value that donors bring to this organization, and the fundamental connection between their faith in the Red Cross and our ability to provide the best disaster relief services possible.” This strengthened commitment demonstrates the desire of the Red Cross to take a leadership position among philanthropic organizations to ensure donors understand where their money is going and how it is being spent. While the Red Cross will continue to honor all donor designations, the organization will continue to promote undesignated giving to the Disaster Relief Fund so that it can respond with equal speed and compassion to the victims of disasters.

The Donor DIRECT program is a result of a six-month long process that included an examination of its current practices, consultation with experts in the field of charitable fund raising, and testing of various approaches with existing and potential donors. Donors and the public can expect to see the changes embodied in Donor DIRECT in place as of June 30 for all national Red Cross disaster fund raising, and by July 31 for all chapter disaster fund raising.

The Red Cross consulted many different organizations, including third-party charitable groups and members of Congress, in developing the Donor DIRECT program, and received positive reactions to the newly developed policy. One of the organizations consulted was the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, whose President H. Art Taylor said: “The BBB Wise Giving Alliance appreciates that the American Red Cross has taken positive steps to strengthen and clarify its fund-raising messages. We believe that donors, beneficiaries and the charity itself, all benefit when there is a clear understanding of how donations will be used.”

The Disaster Relief Fund provides the financial support for the Red Cross response to more than 67,000 disasters each year-including floods, fires, hurricanes and more. The Fund operates as a revolving account, enabling the Red Cross to respond immediately to disasters and ensuring that victims get comparable assistance regardless of the visibility of the disaster or the ability of the community to support Red Cross efforts. Red Cross disaster assistance is free of charge and typically includes such essential services as food, shelter, clothing, mental health counseling and other basic relief services that will assist and lead to recovery.