The Red Cross brought in an AT&T exec as CEO and now it's a national disaster

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Sounds like they’ve got more tangled strings than International Rescue.


The four pillars of corporate governance:

  • Fail up
  • Learn the board instead of the business
  • Employees are a liability
  • Fix the numbers for the quarterly report

On the other hand, Doctors Without Borders kicks ass and is a fine place for my used-to-be-for-the-RC dollars.


Bring in an outsider with zero knowledge about how an organization should work. Sounds legit. What could possibly go wrong?
In other words - the corporate America playbook.


If it’s a disaster, maybe we should call in the Red Cr…

…oh, wait.


I wonder if Gail McGovern is responsible for this cringeworthy advert, they are plastered all over my area of San Diego.


Just going for some street cred, yo.
You know, for kids.


And not just any outsider; someone from AT&T. It’s not exactly news that telcos and cable companies are loathsome and dysfunctional; and generally hate the side of their company responsible for actually maintaining the infrastructure.

They might have been able to do worse by picking up someone from the medical insurance sector; but they would have run the risk that that pick would have instinctively maintained an exquisitely detailed knowledge of various needs, from years of practice identifying and denying such things.


This is not in defense of ATT, but executive management hatred of those that actually maintain the infrastructure is pretty much SOP anywhere… Unfortunately.
It’s a shuffle game, because there’s no difference in their mind between an infrastructure engineer and a janitor. It’s an expense. It’s not a profit center.
Soap box - At one of the last places I worked, we tried for 5 years to institute even the most basic of a cross charge system so that there was a dollar value placed on that which the business units would need to cough up for IT projects. The best we could do for most was charging “hours” in a project, unless it was a very big one where we could justify the procurement of more hardware due to the size/scope of the requirement. Otherwise, it’s like “Three 2012 R2 VM’s, I guess that’s free, right?”
/end soap box


Pleeeeez tell me you’re joking.


You people don’t understand how shareholder value is going to skyrocket when the sell the company for parts.


Komen did it first.


It’s become a hobby group for the executive class, completely devoid of function but making them feel better about themselves


I’m a Red Cross disaster volunteer, but I’m speaking just for myself. (Wasn’t asked to post this, nobody gave me talking points or anything.)

I’m not a huge fan of McGovern’s, but I think this piece understated just how bad the situation was when she took over. When I started as a volunteer doing fire response in Detroit around the same time she was named CEO, every chapter effectively ran as a franchise. We each had our own board, bank account, HR, purchasing, accounting, fundraising, marketing/PR firms, etc.

This meant that chapters with lots of disasters but little by way of fundraising – like Detroit, where we’re regularly one of the three or four busiest chapters in the country because of house fires, responding to 4-5 per day – scraped by on bare minimums, barely meeting client needs. Meanwhile, someplace like a Connecticut with minimal disaster needs but lots of fundraising resources had all sorts of unused toys and bells and whistles and a fat bank account.

What McGovern did – and I do think she went too far and too fast, from my perspective – was to go from a “franchise” model to a “company store” model, centralizing all of the back-office stuff as much as possible and making it much more of a command-and-control organization. (Note that this is on the disaster side. I don’t deal with Blood Services other than as a donor and all I know about Health & Safety is that it’s screwed up these days.) As a financial donor to the Red Cross, I think she made the right decision. The organization wasted a MASSIVE amount of money duplicating services in each and every chapter, and it had too many chapters – for instance, locally, there’s no reason we need to have four “chapters” within a one-hour radius in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Port Huron and Monroe. We can and do have responders based in those communities, but it’s all run out of Detroit now rather than by paid staff in each town.

Good friends of mine lost their jobs, which makes the “rightsizing” thing hard to buy even if it did need to happen. From my perspective, I think there’s nowhere near enough time spent by the national or district leadership out in the field learning about the real-world impacts of what they did. But we had a badly, badly broken organizational model and it needed to get fundamentally changed and to her credit, she did that.

My one request is that when you’re reading about the Red Cross, just keep in mind that disaster relief is really, really hard. The reality is that virtually every disaster will have some screwup that could be pointed out as “the Red Cross failed.” That’s because if things weren’t badly screwed up, we wouldn’t be there. (We joke sometimes that disaster relief is like the parable of the dancing bear, where the amazing thing isn’t how well it dances but that it dances at all. ) The nature of disaster relief is that you don’t expect to get everything right, but you build in processes to catch when something isn’t going right and you fix it as much as you can as quickly as you can with the resources you have, but sometimes you’re not going to be able to help everybody as much as you’d like – it’s like a hospital ER waiting room, nobody’s saying that the people in there don’t deserve medical care, just that there’s others ahead of them with more profound needs. You’ll get to them as quickly as you can.

However screwed up things are for us – and they are, in some ways – we’re still responding when we’re called. I was on call this past weekend, and my Red Cross team was the reason one family wasn’t homeless after a house fire. Unless and until we can’t do that any more, I’ll keep supporting the Red Cross with my time and money.

Again, just my $0.02. I don’t speak for anybody else.


Nope, they are everywhere!

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McGovern’s new plan: All these greedy bloodsuckers need to get get kicked off the unlimited grandfathered plan starting immediately. New disaster victims are only entitled to the first pint of blood. Throttling after that. No family rollovers. Humanitarian aid outside of the continental US subject to roaming charges.


One of the comments associated with that article reads

vcragain • 5 hours ago
I am one of the people who has STOPPED contributing to the Red Cross - I did have a regular payment to them (for quite a long time), but I cancelled it after I read a breakdown of their expenses v actual funds donated to the needy - the funds actually used in Haiti were the item in question. When people give to the Red Cross they think their money is going DIRECTLY to those in trouble, they do not consider that they are propping up a huge organisation of workers - the model is completely insane, and the little guy’s $50 contribution to Haiti or hurricane Sandy was FOR THAT PURPOSE - NOT for the CEO’s salary - that is what is completely wrong. Other charities have small percentages of their takings that are expenses. As soon as an organisation becomes HUGE it is then way too big for it’s real functionality and is out of control. I will NEVER SUPPORT the Red Cross again, AND I now examine every charity with extreme suspicion before I contribute (I DO still contribute every year, but they are ALL under watch now !)
Why do humans - especially Corporations & Organizations - have to fulfill our worst expectations ???

Which is exactly the sort of thing that is so galling to an organization like the Red Cross. You need a competent, well funded organization to manage disaster relief funds so that they do the most good, and aren’t wasted on inefficient and ill-conceived projects. But if all the funds are earmarked, the internal competence of the organization is stressed. I’d want some people who can evaluate the results of a photogenic operation, find the weaknesses, and say-- “That didn’t work so well in the last disaster. It would help more if we had this kind of shelter, and these sorts of supplies and distributed them in this manner. It’s going to cost X amount of money to restructure our infrastructure. and I think it’s a worthwhile use of these funds. Luckily, we have an operating surplus.”

But they don’t have an operating surplus. They have a deficit, and so when people donate in large numbers, the monies they donate don’t do the most good.


AT&T is evil.


I just don’t understand people who think that earmarking their donations makes sense. Today’s donations pay for tomorrows disasters. It’s not like it makes sense for the RC to go out and buy a bunch of tents and cots and medical supplies AFTER a disaster.