Red Cross Clarifies Disaster Fundraising Practices

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As a result of criticisms over its handling of disaster relief funds generated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the American Red Cross said it would implement new disaster relief fundraising practices by July 31.

The new program is called Donor DIRECT, or Donor Intent REcognition, Confirmation and Trust. It aims to educate donors and prospects about the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, the organization said.

As part of the program, the Red Cross made four changes to its practices. The first is that all direct mail, Web, telemarketing and other solicitations will include the following message, "You can help the victims of [this disaster] and thousands of other disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need."

The next change is that the organization will ask donors to confirm the purpose of their donation prior to the acceptance of funds. And donors will receive an acknowledgment reconfirming their intent after the donation is received by the Red Cross.

Finally, the Red Cross will implement a fundraising transition policy for disasters in which it will track when contributions needed for a specific event are reached, and then inform potential donors that the limit has been reached prior to accepting funds.

Controversy arose in October when the Red Cross said it expected to distribute only $300 million of the $550 million donated to the Liberty Fund, which was started for relief of the Sept. 11 attacks. It said the rest of the money would be earmarked for use in case of future terrorist incidents.

However, public and governmental criticism forced the Red Cross to re-evaluate that plan and honor its original intentions by devoting all the money to the victims of the terror attacks.

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