The recent news story on the American Red Cross is disappointing and disturbing.

As difficult as this story is to read for those of us working in disaster philanthropy, the article points out several critical issues that deserve consideration and national attention:

First, our country needs a structure for responding to the humanitarian needs caused by natural disasters that is both well-funded and well-organized.  The current system of relying on voluntary contributions in support of multiple voluntary organizations does not adequately address the needs of either the survivors or the organizations providing support.

Second, the current patterns of donor response result in a heavy emphasis on immediate response but fail to provide the necessary resources for long-term recovery and rebuilding.  This rush to donate in the aftermath of a disaster often places the Red Cross and other service organizations in the awkward position of receiving too much money for some activities and not enough for others.  We suggest that consideration be given to finding national solutions that result in better coordination and balance in disaster giving.

Third, we urge the American Red Cross to find the silver lining in this article and use it as an opportunity to reassess its strategies and priorities.  Its world-class brand has long been known for its work in immediate relief following disasters, and during this time of reflection it can use that asset as a touchstone for its examination of its future.

–Robert G. Ottenhoff, President and CEO