Red Cross getting prepared

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After two months on the job, Pamela J. Daigle is gearing up to expand services and fundraising at the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“The chapter here had a good solid financial footing going into the past two years, which have been tough nationwide,” says Daigle, the chapter’s new CEO

“We’re seeing some good signs as far as fundraising is concerned,” she says. “We’re going to be planning for our growth.”

With an annual budget of $3.8 million, the chapter has faced a “flat fundraising environment” in the wake of 9/11 and the economic downturn, and has trimmed its staff, now 48 employees, by 15 percent to 20 percent, Daigle says.

“We’ve seen a lot of decreases in contributions across the board, including major gifts, direct-mail and grants,” says Daigle, a 20-year Red Cross veteran who most recently was chief operating officer for the Greater Cleveland Chapter. “It was just a very, very tough environment.”

But the chapter, which serves Mecklenburg and Iredell counties and operates offices in Charlotte, Mooresville and Statesville, still raises nearly $5 per-capita, compared to $2 to $3 that is considered strong for a local Red Cross chapter, she says.

And while changes in national Red Cross plans prompted it two years ago to delay a drive to raise $15 million to expand it blood facility, the chapter has raised $1 million for a new disaster operations center it expects to complete this year adjacent to its two existing buildings at Park Road and Ordermore Street.

Direct-mail fundraising for the first half of 2004 is up nearly 25 percent, compared to the same period last year, Daigle says, and the chapter is preparing to boost its overall fundraising.

That will include stepping efforts to sponsor events, solicit planned and major gifts, and use direct-mail marketing to enlist new donors and solicit larger contributions from existing donors.

“American Red Cross is definitely a grass-roots organization, and a lot of our funding comes from $10 and $20 donors,” says Daigle, who succeeded Joe Becker in May after he joined the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., as vice president of disaster response.

The chapter has an endowment trust of $800,000 and plans to accumulate six months worth of operating income before adding any new services, although moving ahead with that plan will depend on the strength of the economic recovery, she says.

The chapter’s priorities for expanding its services all focus on disaster preparedness and education, including strengthening its own ability to respond to disasters, building partnerships with other organization, and recruiting and training volunteers and developing volunteer leaders.

The chapter, which receives nearly one-third of its budget from United Way, 40 percent from contributions and the remainder through earned income, also plans to expand its transportation programs for the elderly, and develop elderly-transportation partnerships with other organizations, Daigle says.

“I’d like to see us get together and plan together,” she says, “so we can do as efficient a job as we can for the people who need it.”

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