Thursday, March 19, 2009

DENVER (AP) - The American Red Cross says it’s on track to erase a $210 million deficit and balance its budget by next year.

Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern said during a stop in Denver on Wednesday that despite difficult economic times, the charity has passed the $85 million mark in a $100 million fund drive launched in September.

She said the deficit will be whittled down to $135 million this year.

“People just come through for the American Red Cross,” McGovern said. “So many people have been helped by the American Red Cross, they want to give. It’s amazing.”

The organization also made an unusual appeal to Congress last year that produced a one-time, $100-million infusion for its disaster relief program.

Last year, the group dealt with floods in the Midwest and six named coastal storms. At one point 60,000 people took refuge in Red Cross shelters after hurricanes Ike and Gustav hit Texas.

While disasters usually trigger spontaneous donations to the Red Cross, the financial meltdown and other news stole the spotlight last fall, McGovern said.

“The American public wasn’t really in tune to it (the relief effort) because it hadn’t made the headlines,” she said.

In addition to fundraising, the Red Cross is cutting costs, she said.

A third of the 3,000 employees at the group’s Washington headquarters were laid off last year, and managers are looking to cut vendor costs, travel and other non-salary expenses.

“Anything that is not nailed down, we’re looking at,” said McGovern, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School who previously held top management positions at San Antonio-based AT&T Corp. and Fidelity Investments.

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