Merkle Handles 700,000 Katrina Donations for Red Cross

Database marketing agency Merkle Inc. processed more than 700,000 mailed-in contributions through Oct. 7 that were sent to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

The Lanham, MD, agency's Merkle Response Services arm has assigned more than 35 full-time employees to the project. Merkle not only manages the distribution of mail received for Katrina relief work, but also helps with processing and depositing of funds from donors nationwide.

“One of the main objectives for the Red Cross is getting the donations to those who need them the most,” said Bill Sayre, president of Merkle Response Services. “To help the Red Cross accomplish this, our team is utilizing advanced scanning technologies to expedite the processing of donations received via the direct mail channel.”

The dollar amount of the mailed-in donations was not disclosed.

Merkle Response Services handles mail volume surpassing 50 million pieces yearly for for-profit and nonprofit clients. The division this year helped handle large donations made to the Red Cross toward the Indian Ocean tsunami relief efforts.

Katrina's widespread damage to the Gulf Coast region and impact on 2 million individuals has placed unprecedented pressure on the Red Cross. Through Sept. 30, the nonprofit spent or committed $1.2 billion, or more than $35 million daily, on Katrina relief work. It will need $2 billion to meet its costs for aiding the survivors — more than 20 times the relief provided by the Red Cross for all hurricanes last year.

The Red Cross as of Sept. 30 raised $1.1 billion in gifts and pledges for Katrina relief. About $856 million had been received by then.

“The volume of donations handled for Hurricane Katrina relief during the first two weeks exceeded the volume that Merkle Response handled during almost two months of processing for the Red Cross tsunami relief effort,” Sayre said.

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