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Red Cross Counters Most Recent Media Stories Regarding Spending

We stand by the fact that an average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Our financial statements are clear in this regard. Our costs are listed in those statements and have long been available on our website for transparency.  They are audited each year by an independent auditor. You can view our official media statement on our website.

The story omits crucial context that was given to the reporters over the course of responding to several waves of questions. That context is included below:

The Red Cross has misled the public about its overhead expenses, which are actually higher than the 9% it claims.

This is unequivocally false. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. We firmly stand by that. As we have always said, this percentage is calculated on overall spending each year of the entire organization, and spending on management, general and fundraising.

Our 9% support services cost is based on information contained in our audited financial statements, which are available on our public website. Here are those public figures for the past several fiscal years, -in the exact format we provided to ProPublica and which they chose to ignore in their reporting:



Management & General

Subtotal MF&G

Total Program Services

Total Expenses

Ratio Supporting Services/Total Expenses




































(In thousands)

The management/general figure covers work that supports the entire Red Cross, since we also must fundraise for our programs across the entire organization as well, not just disasters.

In a wide range of our materials, donor stewardship reports and financial statements, the Red Cross has said that an average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.

There have been cases in which we could have been clearer about this and we have worked to correct that. But the idea that there has been any attempt to mislead the public is totally false.

The Red Cross refused to say the percentage of donor dollars going to humanitarian services.

This is not true and is yet another example of critical context being left out of the story. Here is the exact response we provided to ProPublica on this matter, clearly indicating that we do not track our costs in the way they requested, not that we refused to provide the information:

“We are not declining to say what percentage of a dollar is accurate. The Red Cross receives contributions from many different sources-not just fundraising-so whether you support the Red Cross through a financial contribution, or a donation of blood, or an in-kind donation of clothing or other goods, an average of 91 cents of those donations are invested in our humanitarian programs and services. All of these are important donations to the Red Cross, and we do not track management, general and fundraising to each separately.”

The Red Cross’ public “meals served” number actually reflects the number of meals prepared.

The Red Cross’ public “meals served” figures represent just that, meals served – not meals prepared.  Our policies clearly instruct our workers that reporting of “meals served” is reflective of the quantity of meals served to clients, not the quantity of meals prepared. We provided ProPublica with copies of our policy and procedure manual that clearly instruct workers how to produce accurate meal counts. 

The Red Cross wasted 30% of the meals it produced during the early days of Sandy.

ProPublica and its source continue to allege incorrectly that 30% of meals during the Sandy response went to waste. However, neither provided any evidence that supports this claim, other than an unsubstantiated estimate from a single individual who worked for a brief time on a disaster operation that lasted for months. Other than the unsubstantiated claim of one person, no one can produce evidence that 30% of meals and snack served by the Red Cross were wasted at any time during the operation.