Pulse: FollowUp: “We Are Not Afraid to Say ‘Leprosy’”
We also made two other important changes: We refocused our mission squarely on curing leprosy, treating its effects and rehabilitating those who have had it. Then we rebuilt our struggling fundraising program, hiring The Domain Group (now Merkle) to help put it back on solid strategic footing.
I’m happy to report that all of that worked. We turned the corner. It took a while, but our donor file started growing again, and we’ve experienced growth in donation revenue ever since our turnaround in 1995. Most important of all, more people around the world are being cured of leprosy than ever before.
There are two lessons in all this: First, a charity can come back from the brink. It wasn’t easy or fast, but we did it. In these hard times, I know there are others that are where we were in 1994. You can survive if you have the will to make the needed changes. Second, words matter. If the thing you’re fighting is terrible, you’re going to have to talk about terrible things.
I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I or anyone else at American Leprosy Missions relishes talking about leprosy. I think every decent person rightly feels uncomfortable with something as awful as leprosy.
I hate leprosy. I pray for the day when it is wiped off the face of the earth. I wish I never again had to say that ugly word. I’d be much happier never to see the terrible images of people suffering from the disease. But I think most people will agree that a world where there’s no leprosy would be far better than a world where we politely never mention leprosy — but it goes on ravaging lives.
We aren’t going to ignore leprosy out of existence. The only way we’re going to beat leprosy is to fight it on the front lines, one patient at a time. And that’s going to cost money — money that comes from donors who are moved to act by seeing what a vile enemy leprosy is to mankind.