The American Fraud Cross

Brendan Birth ‘16, Opinion Columnist

After a disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, earthquakes in Haiti, 9/11 and even the Flint water crisis, we become accustomed to the pleas from the American Red Cross to donate to them so that they can help those in need. So many of us and/or our parents donate tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, with the way the Red Cross seems to handle disasters today, they are a fraud, and people shouldn’t donate a penny to them.

People are probably puzzled that I am saying anything bad about such a supposedly reputable charity. But I honestly do not know why the American Red Cross is reputable when, after Hurricane Sandy hit the area I live in, they were busier with photo-ops than actually helping anyone in my neighborhood, my borough of Queens, or New York City in general. My parents were witnesses to the lack of help offered by the American Red Cross. Sadly, my parents’ story was not anecdotal but part of a larger trend—“as many as 40 percent of the organization’s emergency vehicles were assigned for public relations purposes” (Source:

I thought that this NPR story questioning the commitment of the American Red Cross to actually helping those in need rather than making the aftermath of Sandy a PR event was bad enough. But what really compelled me to write this piece was when I saw a story on my Facebook news feed about how the American Red Cross built six homes in Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake hit there several years ago (Source:

Yes…you heard that correctly—six. That was after all the begging for money the American Red Cross did, all the pleading on national news, in sporting events and in other forms of media. There are probably some service trips which build more homes than that!

And that’s not the end of the American Red Cross’s Haiti troubles. According to the same Huffington Post article I cited previously, the American Red Cross “won’t disclose the details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti.”

This is disturbing, because it shows that there is no way of truly knowing whether the countless dollars that Americans donated to the American Red Cross were actually used for helping the people who were in dire need. If there is no way of knowing whether our money that is donated to the American Red Cross would go to the issue they are claiming to confront, maybe we should just avoid donating to them in the first place.

I feel I have made a compelling case to avoid donating to the American Red Cross. But, if we don’t donate money to them after the next hurricane or earthquake, what organization should we donate to if we want to send aid? I recommend a few things. First, if you can, try to figure out what charities have a significant (and positive) presence in the area affected by the disaster. Second, donate to a charity that actually has a reputation for helping the people it claims to take care of. There are a lot of websites that check into various aspects of how charities run their organizations, so with a little research you can find a worthy cause to donate to, such as Direct Relief or Medical Teams International.