When ex-telecom execs run a major non-profit

I had no idea that the American Red Cross was in so much trouble. According to this ProPublica article, things really went downhill when the preeminent charity hired Gail McGovern, a former AT&T executive, as CEO. She in turn brought in more of her corporate buddies to lead the Red Cross.

Never mind the management scandals, payroll cuts, and staff layoffs. The Red Cross can’t even provide much assistance in a smaller scale disaster:

When a wildfire swept through three Northern California counties in September, the Red Cross showed up but provided shelter to just 25 of 1,000 victims at one site. Because of the charity’s strict rules and disorganization, many evacuees slept outside for over a week, even when the weather turned bad. “These families were sleeping in the rain with their children,” said Wendy Lopez, a local volunteer.

Local officials were so angry they relieved the Red Cross of its duties.

The Red Cross had closed chapters in the area last year. “You’re seeing a huge loss of experienced staff,” said John Saguto, a 15-year Red Cross volunteer in Northern California.

Some emergency planners around the country have concluded they can no longer rely on the charity.

“I essentially wrote Red Cross out of my Local Emergency Operations Plan and advised many other Emergency Managers across the state to do the same,” wrote Tim Hofbauer, an emergency management director in Nebraska, in a 2013 email to a Red Cross executive.

You know it’s really bad when people start referring to the Red Cross as the “AT&T retirement program.” Ouch.


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