Collaborative Governance – The United States Government and the American Red Cross


Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) are essential to the growth of any society because they work towards developing and bringing positive change in different communities. Moreover, the main function of a government is to promote the general welfare of its citizens and their overall well-being. Consequently, the primary purpose of both the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the government is to ensure the protection of the citizen rights, promote social and political change in the society, and to improve the community welfare by encouraging citizen participation. The American Red Cross is a non-profit organization that has been in operation in the United States of America (U.S.A) since 1881. The primary purpose of this organization is to alleviate and prevent human suffering. Furthermore, the American Red Cross is aims to ensure that there is respect for humanity and the protection of lives during emergencies and armed conflicts. The organization further works towards the promotion of health and social welfare for the greater good of society. Therefore, the operations of the American Red Cross society and the government of the United States are all geared towards improving the state of the citizens across Continental America. The partnership between the two bodies is essential because they have mutually agreed objectives, transparency and accountability, in addition to equal participation in decision making that aims to improve the lives of American citizens.

Collaborative History and Purpose

The existence of the Red Cross in the United States dates back to 1881 when the NGO was formed by Clara Barton and her associates. Dansville, New York was the home of the first local chapter of the American Red Cross society and soon spread from this particular locality. Since the formation of the organization, its members and volunteers have been an essential part of America’s response to natural disasters, war, and other forms of human sufferings that have, more often than not, plagued the nation. The two bodies first collaborated on September 4th, 1881, when the NGO was involved in relief efforts to aid victims of the Michigan forest fires who were in dire need of immediate assistance (A Brief History of the American Red Cross). The organization, through its founder Clara Barton, would later convince the United States Senate to ratify the Geneva Convention of 1864 to help fuel its growth. During the early years of its inception, the institution focused on assisting victims of natural disasters across the nation; a process that involved providing food and rescuing hurricane and flood victims.

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              Due to the organization’s commendable work in the country, the American Red Cross received its first Congressional Charter in 1900. Through the charter, the federal government mandated the organization to provide disaster relief services in the country and across the globe. The charter further empowered the NGO to offer its services to members of the American armed forces and their families (A Brief History of the American Red Cross).  During World War I (1914-18), members from Red Cross played a vital role in assisting civilian war victims and the American soldiers ravaged by the conflict. The partnership with the country’s military continues to exist to date, and the American Red Cross members and volunteers continue to be deployed alongside America’s armed forces in different countries around the globe. Therefore, the organization plays an essential role in ensuring military success while also standing by for disaster management efforts.

            The American Red Cross introduced the water safety, first aid, and public health nursing programs before the commencement of the World War I (1914-18). The outbreak of the war led to a monumental growth of the organization as more local chapters were formed and the number and volunteer numbers increased to over 20 million. Furthermore, the organization managed to raise $400 million in essential material and funds to support the American Red Cross programs. The support was meant for American and Allied forces while also providing necessities to the civilian refugees who were adversely affected by the war. Furthermore, the organization’s kitty consists of contributions received from various voluntary public donations that are meant to aid it in equalizing its losses for some of the services provided.  In some rare occasions, the American Red Cross gets funding from the federal government for programs whose funding requirements are past what is supported by the charitable public to enable it discharge its mandate expeditiously. State and federal agencies are also at the forefront when commissioning the organization for project, which ultimately allows the organization to acquire substantial aid critical in its quest to fulfilling charter onuses (A Brief History of the American Red Cross). This illustrates that the organization’s dependence upon public support to raise money to conduct its operations within United States.

Collaborative Structure and Process

According to the congressional charter awarded to the American Red Cross society, the federal government tasked the organization with disaster management in the United States and across the world. However, in the United States, its duty extends to providing medical assistance to members of the American military and their families. Thus, the geographical scope of the collaboration between the American Red Cross and the federal government is not only limited to the country but extends across national borders (A Brief History of the American Red Cross). Due to this reason, American Red Cross volunteers are always deployed with the American military personnel to different countries during various peacekeeping missions.

The American Red Cross also partners with various state and federal government agencies in their quest to improve the lives of the citizens while countering disasters. Consequently, the organization conducts numerous face-to-face meetings aimed at training and preparing different governmental agencies on how to combat disasters and protect citizen’s lives. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to partner with and support projects by the American Red Cross society aimed at curbing the adverse effects of disasters across the United States. For example, FEMA supports the American Red Cross’ Sound the Alarm Fire Safety Event that is always meant to sensitize the public on how to prevent accidents arising from fire outbreaks. Furthermore, FEMA and the American Red Cross have collaborated to support hurricane victims in need of urgent relief (Asad & Kay 325). Additionally, the collaboration between the American Red Cross society and the federal government is only meant for the American governmental agencies that deal with disaster management or empowering the political and social lives of the citizens. Hence, the relationship is only limited to the American Red Cross and United States governmental agencies. However, the congressional charters awarded to the American Red Cross further allows them to set up  base in other countries and offer their humanitarian assistance to individuals in various nations across the world.

After receiving the Congressional charter empowering the American Red Cross to become a global society, the organization continues to experience a steady rise in the number of member countries. Currently, the Red Cross society has bases in about 190 nations, all which are dedicated. The increase in the number of member states is attributed to an influx in the number of wars and natural calamities occurring across the world. Therefore, the society partners with relevant governmental bodies to ensure that they combat the adverse effects of war, offer humanitarian services to victims of war and provide blood drives where they collect blood and distribute it to hospitals to assist disaster victims (Brinkerhoff 30). Moreover, most governments across the globe partner with the Red Cross because the organization often provides support to victims during calamities. Most of these countries are signatories to the Geneva Convection of 1864.

After the federal government granted the American Red Cross the first congressional charter, the organization was tasked with assisting in disaster management across the globe and offering support to the American armed forces and their families. This illustrates the collaborative approach between two bodies; the federal government with the primary authority to allocate tasks to the organization (Emerson et al. 12). Additionally, the American Red Cross does not depend on funding from the federal government alone, but in programs that do not fall under the scope of voluntary donations (the federal government is required to offer financial support for the organization to execute its duties).

The American Red Cross and the federal government both have two distinct management bodies that are tasked with coordinating and supervising their activities. However, the congressional charter sets the guideline for their operations and duties in society. As a result, the federal government established the rules of operations for the humanitarian organization through the country’s laws. The organization is expected to adhere to these laws and observe them to the letter. However, when Red Cross partners with federal agencies such as FEMA, collaboration based on mutual understanding and cooperation in the execution of their respective duties (Ansell & Gash 551). Therefore, the organizational structure of the collaborative governance between the two parties mandates the federal government to allocate the task to the Red Cross. Additionally, the federal government can only supervise the humanitarian group’s adherence to the country’s laws, but the group has its internal structures predestined to coordinate and monitor its activities. 

Outputs and Incomes

The collaborative governance between the Red Cross and federal government led to the United States Senate ratifying the Geneva Convention of 1864. The inception of the Red Cross assisted the country in managing and combating various natural disasters. The services of the organization were impressive and the founder advocated for the ratification of the Geneva Convention to provide humanitarian organizations with the ability to protect the lives and offer support to civilians during the conflict (Ansell 37). The ratification of the Geneva Convention by the United States’ Senate was a result of the achievements of the Red Cross and advocacy by the founder. Therefore, the collaborative governance between the two parties led to policy implementation in the country. The ratification of the Geneva Convention of 1864 empowered all humanitarian organizations working in the United States and safeguarded the interests of the victims of various conflicts in the country.

            The collaborative approach between FEMA, and American Red Cross enabled the two parties to understand the adverse effects of disasters and led to the development of the best strategies to counter the spread and occurrence of the calamities. The American Red Cross trains personnel from FEMA on effective ways of countering natural catastrophes and other disasters that the country experiences. Through the process, the two agencies share vital data and funds that help in the recovery process and mitigating the adverse effects of the calamities (Asad & Kay 327). Moreover, the Red Cross offers training FEMA staff members on disaster preparedness and management. The collaborative approach has enabled the two organizations to understand that disaster management requires the use of technology in understanding the problem and saving lives. Finally, the collaboration enables FEMA to support some of the projects launched by Red Cross such as the Sound the Fire Alarm initiative.

            The cooperation between the federal government and the Red Cross is beneficial to the people of the United States and other governments across the world. The organization’s primary purpose is to protect lives during the war and assist in the management of calamities. Collaborative governance has ensured that the Red Cross helps the needy in society and trains various individuals on how to manage the adverse effects of catastrophes. The Red Cross can both, directly and indirectly, help over 100 million people across the globe (A Brief History of the American Red Cross). For that reason, the collaboration between the parties is successful, and the intangible outcomes are the training that they offer and the number of lives that they save through humanitarian aid.


The collaborative governance is similar to the one stated in the literature appraised because it is initiated by public agencies. Furthermore, the Red Cross is a non-state actor, and the federal government can engage them in making crucial decisions. For instance, FEMA directly engaged the Red Cross to assist them in disaster preparedness and management during Hurricane Florence. Finally, the organizations meet jointly, and decisions are made through consensus.  Furthermore, the primary focus of both the federal government and the Red Cross is on public management. Therefore, they aim to protect the lives and interests of the general public. The cooperation’s greatest achievement to date is the role the Red Cross played in World War I (A Brief History of the American Red Cross). The organization was able to assist injured United States soldiers and provide humanitarian aid to the victims of the war. However, the major challenge facing collaboration is the laws that hinder the collaborative approach. Red Cross is a non-profit organization thus not expected to receive funds from the federal government. However, if the government could sponsor the organization financially, this would lead to cumulative progress in the quest to avert the adverse effects of major catastrophes across the country. 


In summary, the partnership between the federal government and American Red Cross has led to advancements in disaster management and safeguarding the lives of the citizens. The goal of these two bodies is to ensure that citizens are protected at all times. Therefore, collaborative governance between the government and nonprofit organizations should be encouraged to enhance the protection of the interests of the public.

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