The relationship between the American Red Cross and the federal government is unique. We are an independent entity that is organized and exists as a nonprofit, tax-exempt, charitable institution pursuant to a charter granted to us by the United States Congress. Unlike other congressionally chartered organizations, the Red Cross maintains a special relationship with the federal government.
We have the legal status of “a federal instrumentality,” due to our charter requirements to carry out responsibilities delegated to us by the federal government. Among these responsibilities are:
- to fulfill the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, assigned to national societies for the protection of victims of conflict,
- to provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military, and
- to maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief, including mandated responsibilities under the National Response Framework coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Despite this close relationship with the federal government, the American Red Cross is not a federal agency, nor do we receive federal funding on a regular basis to carry out our services and programs. We receive our financial support from voluntary public contributions and from cost-recovery charges for some of our services, such as the provision of blood and blood products and health and safety training courses. Under limited circumstances, however, it sometimes becomes necessary for us to seek appropriations for certain programs when the funding requirements are beyond that supported by the charitable public. At times, federal and state government agencies also contract with the Red Cross and provide material aid and assistance to support the Red Cross in fulfillment of specific instances of our charter obligations.