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Key Achievements

Setting the Standard for Success and Effective Leadership of the American Red Cross

When Gail McGovern became President and CEO of the American Red Cross in 2008, the organization was facing serious challenges—a repeated turnover in leadership; a $209 million operating deficit and significant debt; an unwieldy organizational structure; difficulties within its Blood Services operations; outdated IT systems; a powerful but tired brand; and a fundraising strategy in need of a makeover.

During her ten years at the helm, she has led a major transformation of the organization, with a keen focus on strengthening service delivery to meet ever-increasing needs, reducing expenses to keep overhead low, and harnessing technology to bring the 137-year-old organization into the 21st century—all to better serve more people in need and make the best use of donor dollars.

With a dedicated team of volunteers and employees, and strong support from the Red Cross Board of Governors, Gail McGovern has acted to turn around an American treasure in crisis and ensure it continues its lifesaving humanitarian mission for generations to come.

Here are just some of her achievements in 5 key areas during the 10 years of Gail’s leadership:

Assisted millions affected by a growing number of large-scale disasters at home and abroad and launched new programs to save lives
  • Under Gail McGovern’s leadership, the American Red Cross launched some of its largest disaster response and recovery programs, including aid to victims of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and a series of back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes and other disasters in 2017 – including the deadliest wildfires in California history and some of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. During 2017, the Red Cross delivered more food, shelter and relief items than in the previous four years combined.
  • Provided critical funding for the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015 and two earthquakes that shook Mexico just weeks apart in 2017.
  • Responded to nearly 60,000 home fires a year in communities across our country and increased both the average amount of financial assistance provided to victims and the number of people served.
  • Installed more than one million free smoke alarms – resulting in more than 400 documented lives saved – and trained more than 1 million children to be safer in emergencies.
  • Celebrated 100 years of water safety by providing 50,000 sets of swim lessons (more than 400,000 individual lessons) in 88 communities across the country - at little or no cost to many children and adults.
  • Relayed more than 300,000 urgent messages to service members and their families each year and launched the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network to help caregivers meet
  • Put Red Cross on the path to financial stability by cutting overhead expenses by nearly 50% since 2008 and ensuring sustainable funding to fulfill the mission
  • Eliminated a $209 million annual operating deficit within Gail’s first two years in office.
  • Consolidated back-office operations—including IT, payroll, marketing, and HR – and restructured the chapter network to reduce duplicative layers of management and reinvest in services.
  • Right-sized Red Cross Blood Services operations to address falling demand and prices that occurred throughout the entire blood-banking industry, while still providing 14,000 units of quality blood products every day to meet the needs of hospitals and patients.
  • Outside of major disasters, increased donations from individual, corporate and foundation donors by 22 percent.
  • Pioneered a mobile-giving fundraising tool, Text REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation, that made giving more accessible, especially to a new generation of donors.
  • Set a new standard for transparency in reporting how donor dollars are being used - sharing more information on costs and more details on where the money is going.
  • Harnessed the power of technology to continuously improve service delivery
  • Modernized nearly every IT system at Red Cross, especially technology critical to our lifesaving blood mission. This included the largest IT cutover in its history to implement industry-standard labeling on blood products, and development of a world-class system to ensure the highest standards of blood safety and to monitor compliance activities required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), leading to the organization’s release from the FDA Consent Decree, which it had been under for 22 years.
  • Fundamentally changed how Red Cross responds to disasters through a new disaster management system RC View (Red Cross Visual Interactive Event Wizard) to better target needs on the ground and get help to people faster.
  • Pioneered a new, faster way to provide financial assistance through web-based applications and electronic payments. During Hurricane Harvey, provided $400 to 573,000 households – more money faster than in previous major disasters.
  • Developed 12 free mobile apps with real time safety information for the public. The apps have been downloaded more than 12 million times, and more than 1.3 billion alerts from the apps have warned users of impending threats. The First Aid App has been translated into 38 languages.
  • Launched the first social media command center devoted to humanitarian needs to gain situational awareness from the public in real-time and respond more quickly to those seeking help, hope, and information.
  • Invested in a well-trained Red Cross workforce for the future
  • Introduced formalized career training for employees based on best practices from the for-profit world. This included a host of new management courses, and the American Red Cross LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) program, which invests time and resources in the organization’s future leaders.
  • Implemented a process to help recruit more volunteers and improve their on-boarding, training and overall experience.
  • Streamlined the process to better engage local volunteers in response to local disaster relief operations.
  • Recorded a four-year increase in the number of volunteer hours worked in key areas.
  • Promoted strong employment opportunities, hiring practices, and retention programs for veterans and transitioning service members – earning the Red Cross the designation of Military Friendly Employer by Victory Media in 2017.
  • Embraced change and teamwork to transform the Red Cross
  • Gail McGovern’s leadership style and success is based on teamwork. She restructured the chapter network to function as One Red Cross and less as separate entities, leading to greater efficiencies, greater sharing of best practices and optimization of resources.
  • She is now embarked on bringing blood donation services closer together with the rest of Red Cross operations so the public can more readily connect with every part of the mission.
  • Following in the footsteps of Red Cross founder Clara Barton, who said she would “go for anything new that would improve the past,” Gail McGovern has summoned the organization to embrace change and innovation so we can be better prepared for current and future challenges.
  • As a leader in the for-profit world before she came to the Red Cross, McGovern has led with her head as well as her heart, bringing a cost-conscious culture to the Red Cross while maintaining a culture of compassion.
  • In her 10 years at the helm, she has made the American Red Cross a more resilient, responsive and effective organization, and set it up for sustained success in serving the needs of people across our country and around the world.