Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does the American Red Cross do? 

A: The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers, that provides relief to victims of disaster and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. 

Q: When and how did the Red Cross get started in the United States?

A: Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881. A volunteer who cared for soldiers during the Civil War, she became deeply committed to ensuring that the U.S. government ratified the Geneva Convention of 1864 and to establishing an organization in the United States that would help alleviate human suffering.

Q: Is the Red Cross a U.S. government agency?

A: No. The Red Cross is a private, nonprofit human service organization. It functions independently of government but works closely with the government during times of major crises, particularly in wartime and during major disasters. In 1900, the U.S. Congress chartered the American Red Cross to provide services to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and to disaster victims at home and abroad. Operating under a revised 1905 charter, the Red Cross continues to provide these mandatory services.

Q: How is the American Red Cross funded?

A: The Red Cross depends on the charitable contributions. In addition to seeking individual donations, the Red Cross receives a small percentage of its budget from the local United Way, and local Foundations.

Q: Who runs the American Red Cross?

A: Red Cross policy is set by volunteer leaders at both the national and the local levels. Local volunteers help determine Red Cross services and programs, basing the decisions on community needs. Paid and volunteer staff at the national level help support local Red Cross activities. An all-volunteer Board of Governors sets national Red Cross policies under which chapters across the country operate.

Q: Who are American Red Cross volunteers?

A: American Red Cross volunteers-more than a million strong-come from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds. Red Cross volunteers assume a variety of leadership positions within the organization, from the all-volunteer Board of Governors, which sets policy for the organization, to the individual who teaches first aid at the community center, organizes a community blood drive, or provides comfort to families affected by a disaster. Whatever their volunteer job, their goal is to make their community a better place to live.

Q: How do people volunteer to help carry out Red Cross disaster relief activities in the U.S. and overseas?

A: People who wish to volunteer should contact their local Red Cross chapter. The vast majority of volunteer opportunities are typically found within an individual’s local community. International disaster relief workers are drawn from a pool of paid and volunteer staff with extensive prior experience. In addition to disaster relief activities, there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross supporting all of the organization’s services.

Q: What’s the difference between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross?

A: The Red Cross is a nonprofit voluntary organization that responds to disasters regardless of their size and scope; FEMA is a federal government agency that helps in those disasters that receive presidential declaration. Some of the FEMA’s work involves community recovery, such as rebuilding bridges, roads, and public buildings. The Red Cross provides assistance to meet individual humanitarian needs. Also, under the federal response plan, the Red Cross and FEMA have separate responsibilities. The Red Cross is responsible for “mass care”- providing food, shelter, bulk distribution of disaster relief supplies, first aid, and disaster welfare information. FEMA is directly responsible for “information and planning” and “urban search and rescue,” and the overall coordination of any activities conducted under the federal response plan.

© Copyright 2012-2023 American Red Cross Genesee-Lapeer Chapter. All Rights Reserved.
  1401 S. Grand Traverse, Flint, Michigan (810) 232-1401   Lapeer County residents call 1-800-608-4272

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