Your Red Cross donation won't necessarily go to local victims - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Your Red Cross donation won't necessarily go to local victims

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The Red Cross has been helping victims affected by the Border Fire, however, those who wish to show their support by making donations should be aware that their money may not necessarily go to helping local victims right away. 

A viewer emailed CBS News 8, asking about where donations meant for the Border Fire are going. It turns out that donors have to specify a cause for their donation, otherwise, the money will be used for something else. 

Since the fire broke out Sunday, the Border Fire has scorched more than 6,000 acres and destroyed two home. As fire crews work around the clock to contain the fire, Red Cross volunteers are on the scene as well providing aid to victims. 

RELATED: At least two homes destroyed, 6,500 acres burned

"We’d like to think that most of the money goes to help victims, but it's a big question mark and it’s always been a question mark in my mind,” said Supervisor Dianna Jacob. 

Jacob has criticized the Red Cross in the past, specifically during the 2001 Alpine Fire when county residents gave almost $400,000 in donations, but an audit later found that only $6,000 was used to help victims. 

"We always need to be vigilant when it comes to the Red Cross and I will always have a level of concern,” said Jacob. 

The local Red Cross chapter has since restructured their organization and provides more transparency than in the past. However, a CBS News 8 inquiry found that unless a donor specifies where they want their donations to go, the organization can use the money elsewhere, even outside of the San Diego area. For example, if donors want to send money to the Red Cross in hopes of helping Border Fire victims, they will need to earmark it on a check. 

"We do honor donor intent.  When we're soliciting funds, if someone goes through the steps to tell what us their intent is, we'll honor donor intent,” said Senior Red Cross Officer H.T Linke. 

Linke says that donations are often stored in a general account, so that they may be ready during a disaster.  

"This particular fire, we were asked to open a shelter because people were under mandatory evacuation.  Well, we can't go back and say yeah, as soon as we go out and raise money, we'll open a shelter. We have to do what has to be done right then, right now,” said Linke.  

As a result, Linke says right now, they have what they need to assist Border Fire victims, so any additional money coming into the organization will likely be used in a different event. 

Click here to learn more about the Red Cross. 

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