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Give Something That Means Something

This post written by American Red Cross CEO and President Gail McGovern

This is a picture of my daughter, Annie and me. Now Annie is 21 years old, and in college, and last year for Hanukkah, we lit candles together via Skype. In addition to her presents, I gave her a gift each of the eight nights of Hanukkah from the American Red Cross Holiday Gift Catalog. She was delighted that a blanket, comfort kit, a measles vaccine, and other gifts were given in her name to people in need. And I was delighted to give them because if there’s one thing we don’t need in our house, it’s more stuff.

We buy a lot of stuff during the holidays. A lot of meaningless stuff. Is it just me, or does it bother you, too?

On September 4, I was privileged to travel with President Obama to Paterson, New Jersey, to survey the damage from Hurricane Irene.  On September 16, I visited Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with Vice President Biden to see the recovery efforts, not only from Irene but Tropical Storm Lee as well.   In both places, I saw debris-littered streets, flood-damaged homes and devastated people.

While I was in Pennsylvania, wildfires were raging in Texas. Those fires destroyed over 1,700 homes. Heartbreaking is the only word I can use to describe it.

All of the people in these disaster-affected areas needed food, shelter, cleaning supplies and someone to share their burdens. The Red Cross Holiday Catalog, which launched this week, gives me an opportunity to buy just those items for people in need.

Through the catalog, I can purchase meals, blankets and hygiene kits for people in our shelters. I can sponsor caregiver training for the families of wounded soldiers. I can buy swimming lessons and vaccinations for children or purchase an emergency radio for a school.

These are meaningful gifts that provide safety, comfort and encouragement to people who just might have lost everything. To me, that’s priceless. These gifts will never just be stuff. They’ll be small messages of hope that can’t be stuffed into drawers or piled on the curb a year from now.

I’m so proud of our Holiday Catalog. I hope you’ll consider slowing down your “stuff buying” this year, too, and flex your credit card for an American Red Cross gift.

This year Annie is studying abroad, and we won’t be able to celebrate the holiday in person again. But we’ll celebrate over Skype, and she’ll be receiving…Well, I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I’m sure you can figure it out.

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  1. I have a question for you. What is the salary of the president and CEO of the American Red Cross? I hear it is over $600,000 plus expenses. Se condly, exactly how much of a donation actually goes to the needy?

  2. Hi Forrest – This is Wendy Harman from the Red Cross. First, here’s a good Snopes article about Nonprofit salaries you might find helpful: http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/charities.asp

    Secondly, Gail’s annual salary is $500,000.and has remained $500,000—without any pay increase—since she joined the American Red Cross in 2008. This is considered in the middle range for executives of large non-profits like the Red Cross, a $3 billion a year organization. Gail has personally given $175,000 to the American Red Cross in charitable donations since becoming CEO in 2008.

    Red Cross executive salaries and benefits were—and are—paid entirely from general operating funds. No contributions for the Disaster Relief or other designations were used to fund any executive salaries. The American Red Cross is committed to transparency, and as it has for nearly the past decade, the Red Cross has posted its Form 990 in full on its public Web site, http://www.redcross.org.

    As for your second question, at least 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for reading and thanks for asking questions.

  3. My question is, if you are a 3 billion dollar a year non-profit organization, then why did my wife get turned down for help. My father-in-law lost everything in Cushing, Ok. She called you organization and was told you could not help. Thank God he was fully insured. We drove to him, from OKC, and delivered supplies. I own my own business and have donated to your organization. I will never give you a dime again.