November 24, 2012

RED CROSS NOT LOOKING SO GOOD, POST-SANDY: In the hardest-hit areas, smaller and nimbler groups are playing key relief roles.

The American Red Cross “knows what it’s doing,” President Barack Obama said when he visited the agency the day after Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey and New York—and during the final week of the presidential campaign—as he called on Americans to donate to it. Two weeks after the storm, Gail McGovern, the group’s chief executive officer and president, deemed its response “near flawless.” . . .

But many residents and volunteers in the hardest-hit areas say they’ve been disappointed by its response, even as smaller and ad-hoc relief efforts have played a prominent frontline role in the relief and recovery effort.

It’s hardly the first time the Red Cross—which collected more than a billion dollars in contributions in its fiscal year ending last June—has come under fire. In recent years, the 131-year-old charity has been heavily criticized for its responses to 9/11, Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and the tsunami that hit Japan, with many of the complaints revolving around mismanaged funds and misleading fundraising, as well as the propriety of its blood-bank operations.

Yet the Red Cross continues to dominate fundraising in the aftermath of each new disaster, perpetuating its dominance over the emergency-response industry. Perhaps that’s because the Red Cross’s shortcomings often come to public light only in the wake of a disaster, and are forgotten before the next one hits. . . . In the days and weeks since Sandy ravaged parts of the New York and New Jersey coasts, however, residents in some of the hardest-hit areas say they still have seen no sign of the Red Cross.

Your money is better sent to smaller, less politicized and bureaucratic organizations.

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