by Melissa LaScaleia
The American Red Cross of South Carolina supports our community and state in a number of significant ways. But the non-profit organization can’t function without two things: financial donations and volunteers.
Ninety cents from every dollar donated to Red Cross goes directly back into the organization’s programs. The remaining 10% covers the costs of employees, equipment, systems, and other overhead.
“We’re really proud that Red Cross has one of the highest ratios, amongst non-profits in the country, when it comes to the percentage of the dollar that goes back into help and services,” says Ben Williamson, communications director for American Red Cross, South Carolina.
“People often ask us: ‘How can I help you? How can I help families? I saw on the news that you have open shelters, how can I give to support this?’ At this time, one of the best ways to help is to make a financial contribution. We’ve seen a decrease in donations this year and we will definitely need help to meet our financial goal.”
Donating is especially important this year for two reasons. To begin, Covid-19 has increased Red Cross operating costs by more than $150 million across the organization as a whole.
“Every aspect of what we did had to be adapted and changed to keep everyone safe and still be effective,” Ben says. “We needed more equipment, materials and resources. That costs more money when you’re needing more staff and resources.”
The other contributing factor was the busyness of the disaster seasons. This past year, our country saw wildfires, dozens of hurricanes, tornadoes across South Carolina in April, and the Derecho in Iowa. Cleanup from the destruction and relief was expensive, and increased the financial burden to the Red Cross.
“We understand that Covid has put a lot of people in difficult situations,” Ben says. “Many organizations and businesses have had to make difficult decisions this past year, and as a result, many people aren’t able to give what they have in the past. But what I would stress, is that every little bit helps. Every little gift, even if it’s $5 or $10— helps.”
“We have to have those funds to do everything we do,” he continues. “To fully provide financial assistance to home fire victims— we want to help them get food, a hotel, and clothes. If we need to open a shelter, we need to be able to feed the people who are there. We deploy volunteers during natural disasters— be it a fire out west, or a hurricane or flood. We have to have funds to be able to do that.”
Volunteers play just as significant of a role in Red Cross operations as funds do.
“90% of everything that we do, all of our lines of service— from blood collecting to responding to disasters, to assisting the military, to training services— is carried out by volunteers,” Ben says.
This year, the organization has about 2,100 active volunteers across the state, less than in previous years. Covid has played a role in the decrease for a variety of reasons. In response, the organization is hosting a campaign through the end of February called, Resolve to Volunteer.
“First, people are generally more isolated,” Ben says. “Some have had pressing demands placed on their time, whether it’s because they’re moving or their job has been impacted; still others just don’t feel comfortable being out and about at this time.
“We have some positions that require in-person interaction, and some people don’t feel comfortable with that in the current environment. We’ve been really direct, saying we need to recruit volunteers, as we are a volunteer-run organization. We have a lot of protocols in place to make sure people are safe. We require everybody to wear a mask. Before a volunteer gets on shift for any kind of work, they have to be screened with a temperature check and questionnaire.”
Red Cross has dozens of ways to become involved— many are opportunities that have been reimagined into virtual positions that previously weren’t, so now people don’t have to leave home. Volunteering is flexible too— people can be involved as little or as much as suits their needs and schedules.
“We’re really encouraging folks to consider making volunteering with us one of their New Year’s resolutions,” Ben says. “Each and every contribution of time and money matters, no matter how small. Every little bit helps.”