Leading the Charge
John Melia is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He’s got what seems at first to be the naïve determination of a child building sand castles at water’s edge, not quite cognizant of the fact that the surf could swoop in at any moment and wreak havoc.
It’s a refreshing assessment. But it’s also wrong. At 42, the wounded Gulf War vet and founder and executive director of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Wounded Warrior Project is far from naïve about the way nonprofit organizations have historically worked. He just cuts the crap and focuses on how they should work. And in the case of WWP, how they do work.
It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves, “let’s do this thing” attitude, and it’s served WWP well — especially in terms of fundraising. It helps the 5-year-old organization embrace the new 2.0 strategies while integrating them with more traditional approaches; avoid falling prey to what many argue are inefficient measures of success; and stay away from counterproductive, old-school ideas about how to interact with donors.
No choice but to be different
There’s no arguing it: War really is hell. Just ask any of the throngs of American veterans who came rolling home from either of the World Wars, Korea or Vietnam in wheelchairs.
How do you rebuild your life when so much of your spirit, your soul, your body was left behind? Enter the nonprofit sector, with organizations like Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America, which have provided much-needed support for generations of this country’s wounded warriors.
But what about this latest group of young veterans, the ones who are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan — this MySpace generation of warriors?
During previous wars, loved ones got news from the front via impassioned radio reports or grainy newsreels watched over dinner weeks or months after they were taped. In early May, an American soldier in Afghanistan inadvertently called home on his cell phone in the middle of a battle. His family and the American public — thanks to the Internet — listened in horror for three long minutes to muffled curses and commands, the heavy shuffling of boots, a series of dull thuds and pops, and, finally, the chilling shout, “Incoming RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)!”
Related story: Tips From John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project