Cover Story: Lives in the Balance
CARE’s success in riding out the Sept. 11 fallout was due in large part, Neuman and Hicks agree, to being sensitive to the timbre of the American public. For two to three weeks after the attacks, CARE very quietly stopped fundraising, although it communicated with its donors and constituents.
“We never proclaimed that we had stopped fundraising, but our donors received letters from us where we expressed sympathy for what was happening in New York to the victims and their families. The letters didn’t ask for any money. We just thought there was a period of time when we needed to respect what was going on in New York and not be insensitive to that environment,” Hicks says.
One important thread that ran through all the post-Sept. 11 messaging, however, is that CARE’s ongoing work is vital in helping to “create the kind of world where terrorism couldn’t breed, where terrorism couldn’t foster, and that through cultural understanding, by addressing the things that cause people to turn to terrorism to begin with, the kind of extreme poverty that can create a sense of desperation that there’s nowhere else to turn, that through their work with CARE, they could take positive strides toward creating a better world,” Hicks says.
That thread was vital in helping CARE transition its donors, and the rest of the donating public, out of a general disaster-response mode and back into ongoing giving.
CARE’s involvement in and response to what are perhaps the three most cataclysmic events of the past five years varied greatly — the tsunami required almost 100 percent of the organization’s attention, while Katrina and Sept. 11 affected it only peripherally. But each event in its own way helped to bring CARE’s work into focus for donors and non-donors alike.
After Sept. 11, the world spotlight shone brightly on Afghanistan and its oppression of women, the plight of its war widows, and other human-rights issues that CARE addresses. The tsunami made it impossible for the world to turn a blind eye to its desperately poor inhabitants, and Katrina was a brutal reminder that the “poorest of the poor” are particularly vulnerable in times of crisis.