The American Red Cross is out of money
...Need to raise an additional $400 million
Despite raising $1.3 billion for hurricane relief, national CEO Marty Evans confirms the nonprofit has taken out $340 million in bank loans and needs to raise an additional $400 million to aid the victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.
Now the national organization is urging donors to “give twice,” to help fill its coffers for first-responder efforts.
But local nonprofits are wondering how the Red Cross’ continued fund raising will impact local giving in North Texas, which itself is home to an estimated 50,000 evacuees. Some say they’re afraid the Red Cross’ new call for additional hurricane relief funding will draw attention — and much needed funds — away from evacuees who won’t be leaving the area any time soon.
Unless a nonprofit is a partner with the Red Cross, it won’t receive funds from the national fund-raising efforts. To ensure local needs are being made, some nonprofits are making changes to their fund-raising focus.
“We are shifting our message away from hurricane-relief mode,” said Jan Pruitt, executive director of the North Texas Food Bank. “We’re a local food bank,” she said. “Hunger is a problem in our community, and it’s more of a problem because of the additional people in our service area.
“(The Red Cross’) response ended when the shelters closed. We are still in disaster relief mode. Our agencies are meeting the needs of the people in our area melting into our neighborhoods.”
The amount of food the food bank distributed in September was 75% greater in weight than in the same month a year ago, and in October was up 33% in weight over the same month last year, Pruitt said. In November and December, the bank expects to deliver 7 million pounds of food, up from 5 million in the corresponding months of 2004. In order to provide food for evacuees, the food bank conducted 141 food drives.
But with the Red Cross’ plea for more funds, “We’re afraid the response won’t be here for the holidays,” she said.
Evans said the Red Cross doesn’t intend to raise any more than is necessary for the emergency part of the organization’s operations.
“We recognize that many other nonprofits are, or will be, involved in the recovery,” she said.
Fund raising “is always a challenge when we have a national disaster,” said Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, CEO of the Dallas-area chapter of the Red Cross.
The chapter, which began its fiscal year on July 1 with an $800,000 deficit, is responsible for funding local disaster relief, as well as paying a chapter assessment fee to support the national body’s efforts.
Sutterfield-Jones said the local chapter hasn’t yet had time to look at its first-quarter numbers and doesn’t have a real handle on how things will play out.
The Dallas chapter also is looking at approaching local donors who have the resources to give to area efforts as well, she said.
During the first quarter of its fiscal year, which started July 1, Fort Worth’s Chisholm Trail chapter, which covers 22 counties in North Texas, raised $400,000 for local efforts. That’s double what it had budgeted, said Randy Weddle, the chapter’s interim CEO.
However, costs associated with hurricane relief-related efforts mean that the chapter is coming in about even, he said.
“As we enter into the holiday season, all nonprofits are going to be monitoring very carefully to see what efforts this incredible outpouring has had,” he said. “We also know our traditional donors gave unscheduled donations to hurricane relief, and we hope they’ll give extra,” he said.
Evans said national pitches will also ask for funding for area chapters.
“Disasters are happening every day, so, in addition to supporting the needs of the millions of people who have been affected by Rita, Katrina and Wilma, it’s also important to support the local Red Cross chapter because, for the house fire that happens tonight, the Red Cross is also going to be on the job,” she said.
Weddle says Red Cross supporters are able to separate the messages for local, national and international funding.
“Our messaging strategy is having the facts in the right order and offering our benefactors options in supporting local work as well as national work,” he said.