March is Red Cross Month
The Red Cross is synonymous with generosity, support and trust. They have been present to offer their assistance during almost every major tragedy of the last decades. And March is the month in which we honor the Red Cross, and the organization uses this opportunity to promote its services to the American public and for fundraising.
For the first quarter century of its existence, the Red Cross held no regular fund-raising drives. Since Clara Barton created the organization in 1881, it was largely dependent for publicity and funds on the spontaneous support of people who learned of catastrophic events and the Red Cross response to them—mainly through the newspapers and word of mouth.
This rather haphazard manner of operating changed abruptly in 1917, when the United States entered World War I. After declaring war, President Wilson ordered the American Red Cross to raise funds to support its aid to the military as mandated by the Red Cross Congressional charter. In response, the Red Cross held its first national war fund drive in June 1917 and set a goal of $100 million, an astoundingly large sum at the time. Under the circumstances, however, the public response was immediate and overwhelming. Within a few days more than $115 million was raised.
In 1943, amidst the turmoil of World War II, the Red Cross, along with its honorary chairman President Franklin Roosevelt, declared the month of March "Red Cross Month," and set a fundraising goal of $125 million, the biggest amount ever asked for in one campaign by any American organization. Again, the response was overwhelming. It took less than six weeks to reach the target and by June 1943 donations totaled nearly $146 million. Roosevelt called it the "greatest single crusade of mercy in all of history."
This success caused the Red Cross to repeat the March drive during the remaining years of the war and then to make it the occasion of its annual membership and fund-raising efforts ever since. (As a historical footnote, the last radio speech President Roosevelt gave, a few days before his death, was in support of the 1945 Red Cross campaign.) As part of the tradition, the President customarily issues a proclamation each year declaring March as Red Cross Month.
Over the years, the Red Cross has helped millions of individuals overcome the effects of natural disasters and emergencies worldwide by providing shelter, food and counseling. Today, we continue to celebrate Red Cross Month to fundraise, contribute and honor the organization that continues to save lives worldwide.
To donate and find blood drive locations, visit the American Red Cross website at RedCross.org.