A New CEO Rescues the Red Cross

am-red-cross-logoWhen Gail McGovern became President of the American Red Cross in June 2008, the easiest problem she faced was how to close an operating deficit of $209 million within two years.

The really tough problems included (in her own words) “eight named hurricanes and tropical storms … a record tornado season, the worst wildfires in California history and the worst flooding in the Midwest in 15 years.” Oh yeah, and she took the job just before an historic economic meltdown that made more people want Red Cross help, and fewer people want to make contributions.

By most accounts, she’s doing a good job, and she certainly knows how to use a speech to support Red Cross turnaround efforts. Check out her July talk at the National Press Club.

It’s a great mix that that combines specific things the Red Cross is doing (layoffs, new grass roots techniques, twitter, etc.) with a powerful vision for going forward:

You can easily imagine a world where the Obama administration’s United we Serve initiative is the beginning of a new era of volunteerism and service where a culture of service extends from retired baby boomers to tomorrow’s teens. The power of volunteerism is incredible, because through volunteerism, you can change the lives of others, starting with your own.”

McGovern was a former top business executive at AT&T, Fidelity Investments, and other top corporations. Struggling executives in the private sector she left behind could learn a lot from the great communications example she’s setting in the nonprofit world.

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