September 1, 2011

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Article

The Consolidation Process

Streamlining a 130-year-old Organization

Peri Kinder

September 1, 2011

When Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881, she had no idea how her organization would spread to every part of the country, becoming the nation’s go-to response team for any type of disaster. Nationally, there are nearly 700 Red Cross chapters, 500,000 volunteers and 35,000 employees in the disaster relief organization.

Numbers in Utah aren’t nearly that big, but the American Red Cross, Utah Region has three chapters, two offices and a blood services location. With 1,300 volunteers and 30 employees, the Utah Region of the American Red Cross is a bare-bones operation that helps thousands of people every year.

But even with only 30 people on the payroll statewide, the Utah Red Cross has taken part in a national reorganization intended to utilize volunteers more resourcefully, spend donor money more wisely and create a more effective agency.

Maxine Margaritis serves as the CEO for the American Red Cross, Utah Region, which has been around for nearly 130 years, and says the reorganization process has been difficult but necessary.

“This move toward ‘One Red Cross’ will result in a more efficient organization to support increased service delivery across the state and our nation,” she says. “Over the past year, our five locations across Utah have united into one Utah Region in support of One Red Cross.”

Leveraging Resources

During the reorganization process, the Red Cross chapters in Salt Lake, Ogden and Provo, along with offices in Logan and St. George, were each evaluated to determine where redundancies were occurring in order to streamline service.

Margaritis says there were two main components to the reorganization: a tactical side and a personnel side.

Part of the tactical side of the issue included consolidating finances. Instead of having one CFO in every location, all financials now go through the national office, including donations. Potential donors can visit the Red Cross national website at www.redcross.org and choose a specific cause. That cause could be helping out with a disaster overseas, purchasing a calling card for a military serviceman or supporting a local chapter for a nearby emergency.

This consolidation, Margaritis believes, gives donors the opportunity to see all the different efforts being made by the American Red Cross around the globe. “Donors get to decide where their dollars go,” she says. “Some areas can generate a lot of money and this is a way to share the wealth.”

The restructuring will also allow local Red Cross chapters to focus efforts on fundraising. Since the organization receives no government funding, donations from key groups keep the association afloat financially. And because the Red Cross works with everyone from large corporations to individual donors, Margaritis says the reorganization will allow for better leverage to make new partnerships in communities.

Health and safety services procedures were completely restructured to consolidate and economize. And information technology was merged to provide better computer assistance for smaller offices. “They can now link into a larger geography,” she says. “Some of our smaller offices haven’t had the luxury of consistent IT support.”

On the personnel side of the reorganization, Margaritis says working with a small staff is already difficult without having redundancies in jobs and responsibilities. The Red Cross mission is to react quickly and responsively in times of need, and reorganizing personnel was the best way to modernize the process.

Before the restructuring, the total number of employees on the Utah Red Cross payroll was 38 full- and part-time workers. The current staff consists of 30 employees, which includes 12 part-time workers and five grant-funded positions.

The Utah chapters are moving toward hubbing through the Salt Lake office and employees had the opportunity to apply for specific jobs. Margaritis says the remaining staff members are doing different jobs than before as part of the streamlining effort.

“Anytime an organization (or even a person) goes through significant change, we experience loss. We no longer have the same way of being in our work, we may not do some of our work in the same way, we work with different people,” Margaritis says. “At the same time, it is so promising and exciting because we are forging a new way of being and serving.”

Utilizing Volunteers

The reorganization process elicited renewed support from local board members, volunteers and communities.

“[Our volunteer leaders] looked at the change, embraced the change and then stepped up to the plate,” she says.

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