What Is the Red Cross Doing With Your Donations to Japan?


Earlier today, we were asked some questions about how organizations like the Red Cross are dealing with donations received for Japan. Specifically, how long do those text donations take to reach aid organizations? Are donations even reaching Japan, and will they? Gizmodo addressed the question as well in a post titled “Did Your Donation Really Reach Japan? (Probably Not.)” Meanwhile, others have made the case for not donating. So, what’s the deal? We got in touch with Mat Morgan at the Red Cross for some explanation of what’s going on.

What is the time frame for those text message donations?
When people text in REDCROSS to 90999, they are making a pledge to donate $10, which is only fulfilled after they pay their mobile bill. [Ed: Incentive to pay your bills, people!]

Will this delay aid in getting to Japan?
The American Red Cross places helping people and our disaster-response efforts as our first priority, and the time frame that it takes for us to receive text-based donations will not hinder our response to help the relief efforts. You can see this in the fact that we have contributed an initial $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society for their relief efforts earlier today.

[That] means that the first $10 million is on the way to the Japanese Red Cross. To date, we have raised approximately $34 million for this response. The reason we have not sent all of the funds at once is because it is a mix of cash and pledges, and assessments are ongoing by disaster response experts within the Japanese Red Cross. Text donations and some other pledged donations are not in hand yet — and other donations are made each day. What’s important is that the American Red Cross will be providing money for the Japanese response in a series of commitments as the funds come in. What took seconds and minutes to destroy will require a long relief and even-longer recovery effort.

Has Japan actually asked for help?
We’ve noticed that there is some confusion about how the American Red Cross works to provide aid in a situation like this. So it’s worth explaining that response model.

The American Red Cross is a member of the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising the International Committee of the Red Cross and 186 national societies. In this case, the Japanese Red Cross is a strong national society; in fact, they dispatched 95 response teams within the first 48 hours after the quakes hit.

In order to respect the independence of each country’s national society, the American Red Cross only responds to a disaster overseas with the permission of the Red Cross or Red Crescent national society in the affected country. When a Red Cross in another country reaches out for international assistance following a disaster, we can respond by deploying skilled people, mobilizing relief supplies, or providing financial assistance. The American Red Cross has a cadre of emergency response workers, who are specially trained in international emergency operations.

Officials from the Japanese Red Cross have indicated they would be grateful for donations from the American Red Cross to support their earthquake and tsunami response. The American Red Cross also aided the Japanese during the Kobe earthquake in 1995, and they, in turn, sent us help during 9/11 and Katrina.

How is the American Red Cross helping Japan thus far?
We’ve established a designation for Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief. This designation targets relief not only in Japan, but in many other locations that were affected by the Pacific tsunami, including Hawaii and parts of the U.S. West Coast.

At the request of the Japanese Red Cross, we dispatched a disaster management expert from Washington, D.C., to Japan for a week-long mission yesterday. She will serve on a seven-person international team focused on providing high-level support and advice to the Japanese Red Cross.

We may provide cash for the rapid purchase of the most needed supplies. If supplies are not available in the affected country, we can release stocks of disaster relief items from our warehouses stationed around the world.

In the coming weeks, the American Red Cross expects to make additional contributions to support the humanitarian response. Donations received from American Red Cross and other Red Cross partners will aid Japan’s relief and recovery efforts through the Japanese Red Cross and possibly other organizations as experts on the ground determine the best way forward. Donations received by the Japanese Red Cross from people within Japan will be pooled and managed by an independent grant disbursement committee, which will include the Japanese Red Cross. The grants will be disbursed in installments in order to responsibly and effectively respond to the country’s evolving relief and recovery needs.

Are there other ways to help?
Aside from texting, those who want to help can go to and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. Gifts to the American Red Cross will support our disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

What if all of the money can’t actually be used by Japan?
On those rare occasions when donations exceed American Red Cross expenses for a specific crisis, contributions are used to prepare for and service victims of other crises.

We’ve received an incredible amount of support from the public following the devastating earthquake in Japan and ensuing Pacific tsunami last Friday. As always, we are grateful for this support and will channel donations in a way that is both responsible and effective in meeting the survivors’ humanitarian needs.

For more ways to help via other organizations, check here.