by Melissa LaScaleia
Most people know that American Red Cross relies on donations from the public to run their services and programs, but did you know how vital this financial support truly is, or how the funds are allocated?
Red Cross prides themselves on being transparent with their financial information. People can visit www.charitynavigator.com to see a full disclosure of Red Cross’s as well as other non-profit organizations’ finances.
When there is a big disaster, like Hurricane Florence, ninety-one cents of every dollar that is raised for Red Cross is spent directly on disaster relief.
“That financial allocation is something we are proud of,” says Amy Brauner, the executive director of the Eastern SC Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“We have volunteers who help us keep our costs low, because disasters are expensive.
“To run a shelter for one night, it costs an average of $5,000. During Hurricane Florence, we had shelters open for weeks.”
Those staying in the shelters receive cots, blankets, comfort kits, and three meals a day. Volunteers make sure that the environment is as comfortable as possible for those staying there.
“During a big disaster, we need to get shelters open quickly and supplies ready to go,” Amy says. “The donations that people give us every day are what enable us to be prepared for any type of disaster. A lot of people think, ‘I’ll give when there’s a big disaster.’ But the reason why we’re able to amp up very quickly is because the funds are there in advance— whether it’s money to support a fire victim, or cots and meals for a shelter on short notice. In this state where there are house fires daily, we are giving aid daily.”
After a fire, financial assistance helps families with their immediate needs. On average, the Red Cross and its volunteers respond to six home fires a day in South Carolina— so the need for donations is constant. The Red Cross will also provide lodging assistance to families who need a place to stay after a fire.
Red Cross honors donor intent, which means if you donate in South Carolina, your money will stay in SC. And every few months, they release information to the public to show how much they raised and where it is going.
Red Cross is still helping with recovery assistance for victims of Hurricane Florence— a disaster which struck in September 2018. In addition to giving immediate aid, they also grant money to people whose homes suffered major damage to help them begin to rebuild.
“There’s a lot of attention on funding a disaster when you’re right in the middle of it,” Amy says. “But the aftermath requires a lot of funding too.”
The long-term recovery process for Hurricane Florence includes providing recovery grants. Red Cross partners with several organizations in South Carolina. The Coastal Community Foundation is one such group.
Whether it’s handing out a specific dollar amount to individuals, or whether the donations are city or county based, Red Cross will work with other organizations to see what people’s needs are and help.
“There is a woman who, after Florence, needed to replace her roof; she received funding from Red Cross to begin the repair, but she is still rebuilding her house and we are assisting her to secure further funding,” Amy says.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is one of Red Cross’s federal partners that conducts damage assessment. If people don’t qualify for a grant through FEMA and still need help, Red Cross will connect them with the Salvation Army or The United Way. The groups that the Red Cross partners with are specific for each disaster.
“We’re there to help figure out what their problem is and who can help,” Amy says. “It really does take a village to get people through disasters like this.”