Changing Lives as One Red Cross

Written by: Steve Hansen, Northeast Wisconsin Regional Executive

For the past 25 years, I have had the privilege to serve the American people as a member of one of the finest humanitarian organizations in the world…..the Red Cross.  I have seen people at their best, performing acts of kindness during the worst of times while facing challenges they never imagined.  I experienced first hand the incredible work of the Red Cross and its volunteers in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake in California, the F5 tornado in Greensburg, Kansas, 9/11, the 2007 and 2008 Wisconsin floods and countless other instances.  Time and time again, I have seen the mission of the Red Cross empower people in extraordinary situations and change lives.

Today, we have reached a crossroad. Our national leaders have set an audacious goal of achieving an organization-wide end-state where every chapter has the budget required to deliver mission critical services; where we raise money for the American Red Cross by speaking to donors with one voice; where we save time and money by sharing best-in class back-office solutions across the organization; and where we have compelling and consistent marketing messages.

At the core of this vision is a financially sound American Red Cross. We have a lot of work ahead to improve our financial performance and we must do this against the backdrop of the most difficult economic times in decades. Fundraising has been flat for a number of years. Locally, the majority of our chapters had operating deficits last year resulting in a significant national deficit that must be addressed. We are all working hard to close deficits in chapters and at national headquarters, but we must continue our efforts to raise more money and reduce expenses.

The Northeast Wisconsin Region is comprised of six Chapters serving a population of over 1.2 million people in 19 counties.  Our Regional Advisory Council, which includes volunteer chapter leadership and executive director staff, strongly supports our new transformational direction and has adopted a regional strategic business plan centered on the following areas; a focus on core humanitarian programs and services, community presence, shared administrative services, and strategic fundraising. 

To enhance our humanitarian programs and services, we will continue to regionalize our disaster and emergency response efforts.  Unifying chapter community partnerships and volunteer leadership will facilitate a more self sufficient regional response to large scale emergencies. We will fortify current programs and services provided to military families and veteran homes in the Region. We will also build upon our strong tradition of nursing and growing demand within the health care job market by expanding our Nurse Assistant Training program throughout the Region.

To maximize resources and increase efficiencies, our Chapter donor databases have been consolidated into a single regional database.  Similarly, we are consolidating financial data through a central hub.  Human resource policies, practices and handbooks are also undergoing consolidation where practical.  All functions within the Region are being reviewed to determine efficiencies and best practices are being implemented.

Steve Hansen, right, presenting The Karma Group with their framed print for the creation of the Heroes Ad Campaign.

To enhance fundraising and community presence efforts, the Region is participating in a new national pilot program, The Clara Barton Society, designed to empower individuals and families to invest in the humanitarian mission of the American Red Cross by acknowledging and honoring the impact of their generous support locally and nationally. This spring, we will once again engage the public by asking them to “Do something positive and indulge in helping others,” by participating in our region-wide Heroes Fundraising Campaign. 

During the past two years, I have served as your Northeast Regional Chapter Executive working with a dynamic group of volunteers and paid staff.  As a group, we are committed to transforming the American Red Cross into an organization where we are all part of one Red Cross family, working together and sharing the same goals and commitment to helping others. I sometimes wonder if the Red Cross is not there, who would be there to wrap a blanket around an airline passenger pulled out of the cold waters of the Hudson River, shelter victims forced to evacuate their homes due to floods, wildfires, hurricanes or tornadoes, get blood to a child fighting cancer, or a message to a soldier far from home.

The fact is “your” American Red Cross can only be there through your generosity and the generosity of people like you – people who donate their time, money and blood.

For me, being a part of the American Red Cross has truly been a blessing.  I am humbled by the experiences I have had working with the exceptional people associated with it – volunteers, staff and supporters.  I am grateful for the lessons in kindness, decency, and compassion the people of Red Cross have taught me.

Thank you for being part of the American Red Cross.  May you have a blessed, safe and happy holiday season!

Steve Hansen, Northeast Wisconsin Regional Executive