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Ethics in the American National Red Cross

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton, who was a hospital nurse during the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Despite the lack of formal nursing education, she managed to perform perfectly under various conditions and was determined to create a US affiliate of the International Red Cross. Barton’s connections allowed her to open several chapters in New York. The organization rapidly drew attention and managed to attract sizeable donations. John D. Rockefeller, for instance, donated the sum of money needed to construct a national headquarters in Washington D. C., near the White House. Nevertheless, Barton was asked to leave her position in 1904 due to staff and fundraising issues. The reform that followed transformed the American Red Cross into a highly effective and hierarchical organization that was destined to succeed in its mission of expanding humanitarianism. Nevertheless, 21st-century issues can hardly be addressed without guidance and assistance from the state.

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The American Red Cross provides about 35% of the blood donated in the US. The organization also produces about 25% of all plasma products in the country. More than 36,000 blood donations are required daily in the United States. According to experts, these donations account for nearly 21 million annual blood-component transfusions (Ayer et al., 2018). The charity also offers several programs which now help more than 2 million people to save lives through one of the three basic courses available. The range of more specific programs is wide and includes courses such as “Asthma Inhaler Training”, “Lifeguarding”, “Water Safety” alongside many others (The American National Red Cross, 2020).

However, the managerialism that has been historically encouraged in the organization sometimes leads to poor overall performance. The American Red Cross is considered to be an important organization. Smith and Grove (2017) state that the organization has deployed nearly 50,000 volunteers to provide essential support to victims of some 125,000 domestic disasters, including home fires, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, in a recent two-year period. Thousands of people rely on food and shelter provided by it in times of crisis. That is why even minor inefficiencies in the organization’s activities result in serious problems. Recent vivid examples of such faulty actions include some of the activities during the hurricanes and the Mississippi floods. For instance, several dozens of emergency response vehicles sent after Hurricane Isaac were almost empty. There are also multiple less harmful inefficiencies, such as throwing away pastry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars due to ineffective distribution channels.

Thus, the organization’s size and the highly centralized power that does not fit the enormous structure of the American Red Cross may be the main causes of the diminishing effectiveness of its activities. The organization clearly shows the inability to communicate with local authorities which may be disastrous, as currently only authorized state agencies to possess the vital information and are directly responsible for responding to humanitarian issues. Therefore, such organizations as the American Red Cross, the United Way, and the Salvation Army should be guided by public administrators. The ability of charities to establish a proper dialogue with the authorities is instrumental in providing the same quality of services nationwide. Some communities should be specifically concerned about such cooperation, as the growing frequency of occurrences of natural calamities in some regions may leave thousands of people in harsh conditions.

However, charities have a special attitude to cooperation with any government. Although the congressional mandate is essential for a normal functioning of a charity, such organizations as the American Red Cross tend to pinpoint that independence is the cornerstone of their movement in general. The organization uses its influence to show that it is mighty enough to act at its own discretion. Such attitude has proven to be one of the primary reasons for some of the failures.

States and governments around the world are increasingly seen as major providers of social services. Moreover, this state’s role is virtually becoming the most important for the general audience. The increase in the number of public administrators working on social issues and the growing quality of their expertise have led to the enhanced performance of numerous public institutions and agencies. The growing demand for the cooperation of the state organizations and the independent ones which possess a long and glorious history is needed to address most current issues. Public administrators can definitely use the legislation procedures pushing for more control over non-profit organizations. However, it is not the best scenario, as assisting the local Red Cross chapters with minor bureaucratic processes will encourage them to establish more fruitful cooperation without any conflicts. The cooperation should be established mainly by local public administrators who should show the local chapters the benefits of coordinating public and Red Cross efforts.

Millions of people are directly threatened by floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Most of the common challenges, especially in the US, center around natural calamities and health problems. Thus, public administrators should endorse the dialogue between the healthcare system, local emergency services, and charities. Despite the efforts of the American Red Cross, the American public remains unprepared for natural and human-made disasters (Kirsch et al., 2016). Nowadays, even a few hours of inaction may result in thousands of ruined human lives. That is why the American Red Cross has established the Digital Operations Center, which employs trained digital volunteers to help with social media monitoring (Palen & Hughes, 2018). Creating a communication platform of any kind is an excellent option for mitigating the lack of information, which has become crucial for saving lives.

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What is more, the American Red Cross has begun to cut thousands of jobs and close hundreds of chapters nationwide. It is a severe blow to the national wellbeing and safety. What is more, there is no real explanation for the current changes which undermine the organization’s ability to provide help in a timely manner. It is impossible to find the information on the issue; even several Internet resources that try to collect the data cannot figure out the reasoning behind such drastic changes. Public administrators on every level should find the means to investigate the problem and to stop the disintegration of one of the most important American organizations. I suppose that the American Red Cross leaders face a dilemma under such circumstances and may perceive it as a tough moral choice. Choosing to speak openly about the financial problems and asking the local authorities (if not the federal government) to help settle some of the issues is, arguably, more important than insisting on the complete independence of the organization.

Some countries have special institutions and public agencies meant to mitigate challenges caused by extraordinary events. Such organizations get enormous funding directly from the taxpayers’ money. That is not yet the case in the US, where numerous private companies and charities, which assist the population under unusual circumstances and during natural calamities, can be found. The existence of such organizations should be valued more, and public administrators have the chance to implement changes in the way the state and such autonomous agencies interact.

Choosing the right tools needed to promote cooperation with the government and openness should be considered one of the main tasks of public administrators, especially when the public administrator is directly responsible for a community’s wellbeing. The best option would be referring to the leaders of the closed chapters and figuring out the real reasons behind the job cuts and closures. If local public administrators find a suitable way to approach those in charge, they may develop some possible solutions that do not necessarily imply state funding. Saving the local Red Cross chapter from excessive control and red tape, in general, would be a logical and easy step a local public administrator can take to enhance the living standards of the community.


Ayer, T., Zhang, C., Zeng, C., White III, C. C., Joseph, V. R., Deck, M., Lee, K., Moroney, D., & Ozkaynak, Z. (2018). American Red Cross uses analytics-based methods to improve blood-collection operations. Interfaces, 48(1), 24–34. Web.

Kirsch, T. D., Circh, R., Bissell, R. A., & Goldfeder, M. (2016). “Just-in-time” personal preparedness: Downloads and usage patterns of the American Red Cross Hurricane Application during Hurricane Sandy. Disaster Medicine and Public Health preparedness, 10(5), 762–767. Web.

Palen, L., & Hughes, A. L. (2018). Social media in disaster communication. Handbook of Disaster Research, 17(11), 497–518. Web.

Smith, S. L., & Grove, C. J. (2017). Bittersweet and paradoxical: Disaster response volunteering with the American Red Cross. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 27(3), 353–369. Web.

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The American National Red Cross. (2020). Our class programs. Web.

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