Yes, there are lots of non-profits out there that do amazing things for their communities, and many of them are similar to the Red Cross in one function or another. We're not the only provider of CPR training, nor are we the only disaster relief organization.
So, what makes the Red Cross different?
Well, unlike some other non-profits, the American Red Cross maintains a special relationship with the US government through its congressional charter. Though it's not a federal organization, the Red Cross has the legal status of "a federal instrumentality" and has been appointed to assist in fulfilling the obligations of the Geneva Convention. According to its charter, the Red Cross is required to:
- fulfill the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, assigned to national societies for the protection of victims of conflict,
- provide family communications and other forms of support to the U.S. military, and
- maintain a system of domestic and international disaster relief, including mandated responsibilities under the National Response Plan coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Did your eyes glaze over? Don't worry, me too. Here's what it means: The Red Cross has a huge responsibility to support the humanitarian efforts of the US government. As I mentioned, we're not a government agency, so this is all accomplished through the hard work of our volunteers and donors.
It's a big job. And while volunteering your time is a great thing to do no matter what organization you choose to do it with, I urge everyone to consider the Red Cross.