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How the American Red Cross Spends Your Donations

Tiffany Windows

Donors want to know how much of their donation goes to the humanitarian services and programs the Red Cross provides, and how much goes to our costs for fundraising and management and general.

The fact is an average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in our humanitarian services and programs. We calculate it by comparing our overall spending on programs to our overall spending on fundraising and management and general.

For example, Red Cross total spending in FY16 was $2,721.5M. Of that, Red Cross spent $286.0M on fundraising and management and general. When you compare the two figures, you see that fundraising and management and general were about 10% of our total spending, which means about 90% was invested in our humanitarian services and programs. Historically, the average percentage works out to 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in our humanitarian services and programs.

How did we invest the dollars we spent on humanitarian services and programs in FY 2016? Here is the breakdown from our audited financial statements:

  • $1,736.3 million - Collect, test, manufacture and distribute approximately 6.8 million blood products
  • $332.8 million – Respond to disasters – nearly 64,000 per year
  • $65.2 million – Provide more than 369,000 emergency services to our armed forces and their families
  • $148.3 million - Deliver preparedness, health and safety courses like First Aid and CPR
  • $119.7 million – Fund international relief programs
  • $33.2 million – Fund community services (e.g., food banks, transportation programs)
  • Some donors want to know how much of every dollar they donate goes to a specific disaster. For large disasters like Hurricane Sandy, we allocate a minimum of 91 cents of every dollar raised to the program – and sometimes more. But the Red Cross responds to nearly 64,000 disasters every year, so we do not track fundraising and management and general expenses for each of those individual disasters. We honor donor intent, and if a donor designates their donation for a particular disaster, it goes to that disaster.

    The Red Cross receives donations from multiple sources: financial donors, blood donors, in-kind donations, and, again, we don’t track fundraising and management and general expenses for each type of donation separately. Despite our many services, we are one organization. We are classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a single 501(c)(3) charitable organization with one overall financial statement and tax return.

    One of our top priorities is to be cost-conscious. We try to keep our fundraising and management and general costs low so we can spend more on people who urgently need our services. We are regularly looking for ways to streamline, consolidate operations and reduce expenses. We use volunteers (nearly 314,000 nationwide) to keep costs low.

    An independent audit firm validates our expenses, and we post our audited financial statements and our Form 990 tax return on our website in their entirety. We are accredited by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

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