Last year Karen Washbush, a Red Cross staff member who works in financial development, saw firsthand the people she helps through her fundraising efforts. She deployed with the Red Cross to West Virginia to help raise money to assist people affected by the floods.
“I saw people near these small houses and all their worldly possessions were out on the front lawns. They lost everything. It made a real impact with me,” she said.
Karen spent a majority of her time in West Virginia contacting potential donors and fielding calls from donors reaching out to help.
“We were on the phone raising money to provide shelter and food to meet basic needs,” she said. “I also had the opportunity to talk to people in shelters and hear what they went through and it was extraordinary. Just the strength those communities have and the positive attitude they had after going through what they went through … I think it made me a better fundraiser.”
Karen has been with the Red Cross for about a year and a half. Her previous fundraising experience includes positions at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Catholic Social Services, and The Columbus Foundation. She wanted to add the Red Cross to her resume in part because of her mother, who spent many years as a Red Cross volunteer.
“I knew the reputation the Red Cross had, and when I met (the team) I felt a really good connection,” she said.
The American Red Cross assists those in need through blood drives, safety campaigns and assistance to disaster victims, among many other programs. Although the Red Cross has a congressional charter, the organization does not receive federal funds. Financial support for its humanitarian work comes primarily from corporate donors and individuals.
This is where people like Karen come in. As a major gifts officer for the Red Cross regionally, her job is to work with corporate clients interested in donating to the organization.
“We are very donor-centric, so we work with the donor to find out what their needs, what they are trying to accomplish and how we can make it fit with the Red Cross,” she said.
Karen encourages potential Red Cross volunteers to consider volunteering to be a fundraiser.
“The day is never the same. It’s an exciting program to volunteer for because you get to use so many different skills: writing, strategic planning, marketing, creativity,” she said.
“And ultimately we can’t operate without funds.”
A new Red Cross campaign depends on both donors and volunteers to “Sound the Alarm. Save a Life!” Running September 23 to October 14, Sound the Alarm is a nationwide effort to install 100,000 free smoke detectors and educate families on home fire safety. In Columbus and Toledo, the Red Cross will install 1,000 smoke detectors during this period. For more information on Sound the Alarm, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/ohio/buckeye/home-fire-safety