On Advertising During a Disaster

The United Methodist Church has been
advertising when two major events in the life of the country happened. The
church was on the air during the 9/11 disaster, and now during
Katrina.

For the second time, The United Methodist Church was advertising when a major disaster struck. The first was 9/11. Now it is Katrina. Inevitably, I receive queries from people asking why the church would spend money in this way when there is so much obvious human need.

These are legitimate questions arising from an authentic desire to see the church do the right thing. I’m not defensive about this. It’s a question born of genuine concern and it deserves a fair, considered response.

In a practical vein, the monies dedicated to this initiative were appropriated months ago and committed to the purchase of time long before the hurricane. It’s virtually impossible ten days into the schedule to pull the ads, get refunds and expend it on emergency relief. But that’s just a realistic and very practical reality.

As the communications agency of the church we anticipate contingencies and allocate funds for communicating during such events. Admittedly, in a disaster of this magnitude, we don’t have an abundance of reserve funds, however, we will be creative and adaptive and we’ll get the stories told and get the word out. But the point is, communicating during a disaster is an important, integral part of humanitarian response and the costs of communicating do not take away from contributions that are given for humanitarian response. In fact, it’s vital to communicate so that people will know where and how to volunteer, contribute and otherwise support compassionate service to those affected.

In The United Methodist Church administrative costs for underwriting humanitarian efforts are provided by an offering known as One Great Hour of Sharing. This offering allows the relief agency of the church to pay for salaries and travel, among other expenses, that make it possible for relief and long-term rehabilitation to be carried out. Most importantly, it also means that no monies given by donors for human service are channelled to pay for advertising or administration. One hundred percent of your donation goes to people in need.

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