An American Red Cross (ARC) executive on Thursday seemed uncertain of what portion of donations to the charitable organization is going towards Tropical Depression Harvey relief.
Brad Kieserman said that as of Wednesday morning the ARC had spent $50 million on Harvey relief, mainly on 232 shelters for 66,000 people.
“Through donations, how much of every dollar goes to relief?” Ailsa Chang, the host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” asked him.
“Yeah, I don’t think I know the answer to that any better than the chief fundraiser knows how many, how much it costs to put a volunteer downrange for a week and how many emergency response vehicles I have on the road today,” Kieserman responded.
“So I think if he was on this interview and you were asking how many relief vehicles in Texas, I don’t think he’d know the answer and I don’t know the answer to the financial question I’m afraid,” added Kieserman, who is the ARC’s vice president of disaster operations and logistics.
Chang then asked if Kieserman has “visibility” on the ARC’s efforts to reduce the amount of funds spent entirely on internal costs.
“The folks that I work for are very, very attentive to cost effectiveness and cost efficiencies in making sure that as much as every dollar that we spend on an operation is client-facing,” he said.
The ARC released a statement later Thursday that Kieserman had been "working day and night to make sure we can meet the needs of Hurricane Harvey survivors with shelter, food, relief supplies, etc."
"He is also our operations chief and can tell you where all shelters, volunteers, trucks, cots, blankets, etc. are located," the statement added.
"He is not an accountant and isn't the best person to weigh in on those questions - especially when he is dealing with an historic disaster relief effort."
Gail McGovern, who is ARC’s CEO and president, on Thursday defended her organization’s management of its donations.
“Well, on average, 91 cents of every dollar that we spend goes to our services and we are really proud of the fact that we keep our overhead low,” she said on “CBS This Morning.”
“And people who are designating money for victims of Hurricane Harvey, that money will be used for the people that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” McGovern continued.
“We are going to make sure that every designated dollar that is going to this storm is used appropriately. We take that responsibility very, very seriously.”
McGovern declined to specify how much ARC has raised for Harvey since the storm first made landfall last Friday.
“Sometime next week we’ll be able to give you an idea of what we’ve raised because it’s changing very, very rapidly,” she said.
NPR reported in 2014 that ARC’s tax documents in recent years had listed fundraising expenses up to 26 percent of what people donated, without factoring in management or overhead.
ARC officials at the time clarified that an average of 91 cents from every dollar the organization spends goes to disaster services instead.