Horror to Hope
The pumps are working again, belching putrid water out of New Orleans and back into Lake Ponchatrain. There was even a parade on Bourbon Street. But at this writing, America was still falling asleep to nightly images of bloated corpses, starving animals, armed patrols floating on boats through rivers that once were the streets of this country’s most joyous and charmingly decadent town, and the weary, misguided people who wouldn’t leave it.
But even before the waters ebbed and the military rolled in and government dollars started to flow, even as violence, chaos and desperation wrapped their icy fingers around the heart of the hurricane zone, there was hope. And often, at the core of that hope was a nonprofit organization: The Salvation Army, for example, had people on the ground in what seemed like minutes, making sure the stuff of life didn’t get caught up in the muck of bureaucracy and ineptitude that overshadowed early relief efforts. Immediate-response fundraising kicked into high gear, and Web sites sprang to life with stories about the strength of the human spirit, the frailty of the human condition and straight-to-the-heart arguments for giving.
People know where to turn in the wake of a disaster, whether it’s to get help or to give it. And it’s not to the government. While politicians were congratulating themselves for a job well done, you folks were out on the front lines or behind the scenes delivering hope and healing along with food, water and other basics. And when the immediate need has passed, you’ll hunker down for the long haul and still find the spiritual, physical and financial resources to meet the next challenge head on.
The Katrina catastrophe and the role of nonprofits in the relief effort really shed new light on our first annual Gold Awards for Direct-Mail Excellence, the results of which appear in this issue. In the past few months, I’ve seen more direct-mail appeals than most people see in years. And as I look at it in light of the horrors I’ve seen in the past week, I am acutely reminded of the “why” behind the pile of direct-mail efforts that has accumulated in a corner of my office.