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Can Research Rescue the Red Cross?
>Abstract
The American Red Cross seemed in its true element following September 11, 2001. It was flooded with donations to do its highly needed and regarded work. Most of those donations went to its Liberty Fund. But shortly after it started to disperse the funds, the media began asking questions. And the American Red Cross soon wore a patina of tarnish. Learn about the research that evaluated Americans’ perception of the Red Cross and how research by Wirthlin Worldwide helped craft a new and highly effective donation solicitation process. www.wirthlin.com; www.redcross.org

>The Scenario

Used with permission of
Pamela S. Schindler
©2004.

Whether it’s a landslide in California, a flood in Puerto Rico, fires in Colorado, hurricanes in Florida, or tornadoes in Texas, the Red Cross can be depended on to help not only the victims but also those involved in rescue and relief services. But each local independent chapter of the American Red Cross also responds to thousands of smaller events that disrupt peoples lives yet aren’t as likely to be splashed across headlines or lead the evening news, such as a fire in a single-family house fire or a family that loses its breadwinner when the father’s military reserve unit is activated to serve in the war in Iraq. While the magnitude of the disaster affects the visibility of the Red Cross’s relief efforts, the skilled professionals and volunteers who constitute the American Red Cross pride themselves on being where they are needed as quickly as possible, providing the services that are needed by those both directly and indirectly affected. In a single year the American Red Cross affiliated chapters respond to approximately 70,000 such disasters, both small and catastrophic, by providing disaster relief services, family emergency services, domestic preparedness for bioterrorism, critical lifesaving services, and 24-hour military assistance. The American Red Cross provides these services 24 hours per day, every day. And it provides them for free.

A totally independent philanthropy, one receiving no government financial support, the American Red Cross relies on the generosity of U.S. citizens for the operating capital to fund its services. For decades it has followed a policy of raising funds by soliciting donations via advertising during the high-visibility period surrounding a disaster that has captured media attention. As its Web site details, “One of the best ways to help disaster victims, people in need where you live, and people around the world right now is through a financial donation.” Donors primarily are encouraged to give to (1) the Disaster Relief Fund, which “enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need across the country,” (2) their local Red Cross chapter, which “assists people in need” within a donor’s community, or (3) the International Response Fund, which “allows the American Red Cross to respond to people’s needs around the globe.” Its stellar reputation for speedy, quality assistance generates millions of dollars in donations each year.

September 11, 2001, changed many people’s lives and it also dramatically changed the way the American Red Cross solicits donations. The sheer number of people affected was beyond the scope of any other domestic disaster addressed, including Oklahoma City, the San Francisco earthquake, and hurricanes Camilla or Hugo.

Typically, the Red Cross develops a disaster plan by determining what will be needed in terms of resources—financial, services, and manpower—to respond to those in need. It is able to use its extensive disaster experience to estimate the amount of money necessary to address the needs, and it does this quickly, often within three to seven days. But it would take three

Business Research Methods, 10/e, Cooper/Schindler

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Can Research Rescue the Red Cross?

weeks to estimate the dollars required to address...
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