Home Chapter Overview Contact Us   Red Cross Chapter Locator  

American Red Cross


Q: What does the American Red Cross do?
A: The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. It does this through services that are consistent with its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The American Red Cross also is the foremost volunteer emergency service organization in the United States, with more than 1,400 chapters nationwide, 38 Blood Services regions, 18 Tissue Services centers, plus hundreds of field stations on U.S. military installations around the world.

Q: When and how did the Red Cross get started in the United States?
A: After serving on one of the first humanitarian missions of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Clara Barton founded the American Association of the Red Cross on May 21, 1881. A volunteer who cared for soldiers during the Civil War, she became deeply committed to ensuring that the U.S. government ratified the Geneva Convention of 1864 and to establishing an organization in the United States that would help alleviate human suffering.

Q: How many people work for the American Red Cross?
A: There are 32,262 paid staff members and 1.39 million volunteers nationwide.

Q: Is the Red Cross a U.S. government agency?
A: No. The Red Cross is a private, nonprofit human service organization. It functions independently of government but works closely with the government during times of major crises, particularly in wartime and during major disasters. In 1900, the U.S. Congress chartered the American Red Cross to provide services to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to disaster victims at home and abroad. Operating under a revised 1905 charter, the Red Cross continues to provide these mandatory services.

Q: What organizations comprise the International Red Cross Movement?
A: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a phrase that symbolizes the unity of all Red Cross work carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; 170 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, including the American Red Cross; and the Magen David Adom in Israel.

Q: Is the Red Crescent connected to the Red Cross?
A: Yes. Although the red cross is not a religious symbol, the symbol of the red crescent is used instead of the red cross by national societies in most Islamic countries. Both Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies comprise the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Q: In how many countries is the Red Cross present?
A: There are 170 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and the Magen David Adom in Israel. Additionally, there are 110 operational international Red Cross delegations carrying out humanitarian missions in areas of disaster, armed conflict, or civil disturbance around the world.

Q: How is the American Red Cross funded?
A: The Red Cross depends on the charitable contributions of the American people. In addition to seeking individual donations, the Red Cross receives fees for some of its services, participates in the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign, and solicits funds from corporations. The Red Cross also receives reimbursements and grants on occasion from local, state, and federal government agencies for specific projects.

Q: How much money did the Red Cross raise in fiscal year 1995?
A: Total donations to the Red Cross in fiscal year 1995 were $465.6 million. Revenues from Red Cross biomedical services, investment income, income from endowment funds, contracts and grants, program materials, and the gain on sale of assets totaled more than $1.2 billion in fiscal year 1995. Public support and revenues totaled $1.72 billion in fiscal year 1995, down just slightly from $1.74 billion the previous year.

Q: How much of the money the Red Cross spends is used to help people?
A: Ninety-two cents of every dollar spent goes to programs and services to help those in need. The real value of every donated dollar becomes magnified by the fact that the ratio of Red Cross volunteers to paid staff is 43 to 1.

Q: How can I make a donation to the Red Cross?
A: Individuals wishing to donate to the American Red Cross, Greenwich Chapter may send a check to: 231 East Putnam Avenue, Greenwich, CT 06830. Also, donors may call 1-203-869-8444 to charge a financial contribution to the American Red Cross, Greenwich Chapter to their credit card.

Q: Who runs the American Red Cross?
A: Red Cross policy is set by volunteer leaders at both the national and the local levels. Local volunteers help determine Red Cross services and programs, basing the decisions on community needs. Paid and volunteer staff at the national level help support local Red Cross activities. An all-volunteer Board of Governors sets national Red Cross policies under which chapters across the country operate.

Q: Who are American Red Cross volunteers?
A: American Red Cross volunteers—more than a million strong—come from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds. Red Cross volunteers assume a variety of leadership positions within the organization, from the all-volunteer Board of Governors, which sets policy for the organization, to the individual who teaches first aid at the community center, organizes a community blood drive, or provides comfort to families affected by a disaster. Whatever their volunteer job, their goal is to make their community a better place to live.

Q: How do people volunteer to help carry out Red Cross disaster relief activities in the U.S. and overseas?
A: People who wish to volunteer should contact their local Red Cross chapter because the vast majority of volunteer opportunities are typically found within an individual’s local community. International disaster relief workers are drawn from a pool of paid and volunteer staff with extensive prior experience. In addition to disaster relief activities, there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross supporting all of the organization’s services.

Q: What’s the difference between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross?

A: The Red Cross is a nonprofit voluntary organization that responds to disasters regardless of their size and scope; FEMA is a federal government agency that helps in those disasters that receive presidential declarations. For example, in 1995, the Red Cross responded to more than 63,000 disasters nationwide; FEMA responded to 31 disasters.

Some of FEMA’s work involves community recovery, such as rebuilding bridges, roads, and public buildings. The Red Cross provides assistance to meet individual humanitarian needs. Also, under the federal response plan, the Red Cross and FEMA have separate responsibilities. The Red Cross is responsible for “mass care”—providing food, shelter, bulk distribution of disaster relief supplies, first aid, and disaster welfare information. FEMA is directly responsible for “information and planning” and “urban search and rescue,” and the overall coordination of any activities conducted under the federal response plan.

Q: How many disasters occur annually in the U.S.?
A: In recent years, the American Red Cross has responded to more than 60,000 natural and man-made disasters annually. In 1995, the Red Cross responded to 63,394 domestic disasters, including hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, hazardous materials spills, civil disturbances, explosions, and transportation accidents.

Q: Is the blood supply safe?
A: The nation’s blood supply is safer today than it has ever been and is as safe as modern science and medicine can make it. A person cannot contract the virus that causes AIDS by donating blood. In fact, the risks of contracting a bloodborne disease through transfusion pale in comparison to the risks of not receiving a transfusion. The chance of contracting the virus that causes AIDS through a blood transfusion is one in 676,000 units of blood — much less than the chances of someone having a fatal reaction to anesthesia during surgery (one out of every 15,000–30,000 persons) or an adverse reaction to penicillin (one out of every 30,000 persons).

Q: What is the correct way to refer to the Red Cross in a story?
A: If the story concerns an event or situation in the United States, in the first reference, use American Red Cross; thereafter, the Red Cross is fine. If the event is outside the United States, please contact the American Red Cross for clarification of Red Cross involvement.