America has responded to the events of September 11 with a record
amount of charitable donations. Time (November 5) described the more
than $1 billion that has been pledged or donated in the weeks
since September 11 as the largest philanthropic effort for a single
cause in American history.
However, while US generosity has been impressive and has prompted
feelings of pride, there are also concerns that the money donated for
September 11 victims and their families is not reaching its intended
The media has latched on to this investigative reporting story and
concluded that there is more than meets the eye to the charitable
Nearly half of the stories analyzed by Media Watch suggested that
donations aren't reaching the needy - either due to delays or because
the funds are being used elsewhere. The American Red Cross, the
country's largest disaster-relief organization, appears to have caught
the brunt of the media's anger over the notion that funds were being
misused. On ABC's Nightline (October 26), Ted Koppel described how these
concerns had been a factor in the abrupt resignation of its CEO, Dr.
Bernadine Healy. Of the $529 million raised in a newly created
fund by the Red Cross, it was disclosed that only $200 million is
being allocated to direct emergency services and direct payments to
On that same program, the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy
stated, "The Red Cross is one of the most trusted organizations we have
in this country, and now they've broken that trust. That can be very
dangerous for many charities across the country, because now people
aren't really secure that their gifts are going to go where they thought
The Los Angeles Times (October 27) also criticized the Red Cross' recent
TV ads, which featured images of the smoldering shell of the World Trade
Center while Hollywood stars encouraged the public to give. The paper
questioned whether the public understood that less than half of the
money raised would go the victims' families.
Another issue raised by the media is whether the 190 charitable
organizations involved should coordinate their activities to be as
efficient as possible in distributing financial support and assigning
caseworkers, an idea that the Red Cross under Healy rejected.
The press told of wide support for this idea, championed by New York
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Following Healy's resignation, a
Washington Times editorial (November 2) approved of the Red Cross'
decision to join other charities in this effort "to reduce duplication,
fill any voids and tap the full range of experiences and talents that
all of these parties bring."
There were also many reports that indicated that with all of US'
attention focused on the tragedy, other charities were being overlooked.
CNN (October 29) identified a number of detrimental factors facing
charities: "War, unemployment, anthrax, and now a credibility problem,
which may weigh heavily on charitable giving during the most important
time of the year."
Judging from the media coverage, the way that some charities have
handled September 11-related funds may have given the industry a black
eye, and those charities that haven't been involved with September 11
are seeing their sources of funds evaporate.
Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found