The Canadian Red Cross and deplorable fundraising tactics

The Red Cross has been present in Hungary since 1881 and much like in Canada, it provides important educational programs on emergency care, as well as offers vaccines, organises blood drives and trains volunteer nurses. Yet after an encounter with the Canadian Red Cross last night, I left very disappointed with their deplorable fundraising and pressure tactics and wrote them an open letter about my experience, which I am also sharing with our readers.

Dear Red Cross:

You need to reconsider how you collect donations. This evening, my door bell rang and a young woman with reduced mobility was at my door requesting donations for what are, undoubtedly, worthy projects spearheaded by the Red Cross. I listened to what was said and indicated that while I could give a one-time donation, I needed time to think about whether I could commit to long-term, auto-debit monthly donations. I received the usual rationale about how it is just $1 per day–and $30 per month is surely not a problem. I was also told by this young woman, who clearly had a bad cold and walked with a cane, that she canvasses the streets for donations five days a week and only gets credited (ie: paid) if clients sign up for long-term regular monthly donations.

I felt quite bad for her, and after hesitating, agreed to sign up for monthly auto-debit donations. She had to phone her call centre from my place, pass the phone to me, where an agent asked me to confirm that I had the intention of signing up for long-term monthly donations, with the first amount debited today, to be repeated every 30 days and for at least one year. The tiny text on the iPad that I had to electronically sign did indicate that I could cancel at any time, but the agent on the phone made it clear that this could only happen if there is a significant change in my financial circumstances.

The work that the Red Cross does is certainly valuable. But having vulnerable and shamefully underpaid people struggle to make a living by walking the streets for you, pressuring people into signing one year commitments that they may not be able to afford and making it abundantly clear to donors that you are not interested in their one-time donations is a deplorable tactic.

When I donate, I always have the feeling that in however small a way, I am contributing something to the common good and to the society in which I live. None of us live in silos; we do have a responsibility to our broader community. This is the first time in my life that I have a really sick feeling in my stomach after donating–a sick feeling because I was absolutely pressured into making a long-term commitment that I was unable to properly consider, because you made it clear that a one-time donation from me is unwanted and useless, and because you exploit the people you send out to collect donations for your program.

Christopher Adam

Coercion / Sergey Sidelev


  1. Pierre Divenyi says:

    Unfortunately there is more to it. Last time I read about the Red Cross as an organization, I learned that (in the US at least) it is top-heavy with a substantial portion of donations never reaching their intended targets. I am sure there must have been impartial investigations of the Red Cross’ finances also in Canada.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Pierre, yes, this is a major concern with charities of this size–the bulk of your donation goes towards top heavy admin costs, rather than programming and front-line services.

  2. Cursed Red Cross! Looked away while lunching with the Hungarians and the Nazis in death camps, while my father ate ( if he was lucky)brown plucked grass…
    Useless in the US during hurricane Sandy they were offering a bottle of water! Along with the UN and UNICEF and the worthless Amnesty International, President Trump should kick Them in their ass…

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