Preliminary unaudited tallies from phone and online contributions indicate that Friday night's Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, the telethon produced by the six networks that blanketed the airwaves, raised an estimated $30 million for the American Red Cross and Salvation Army's efforts to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Final national Nielsen ratings for the six major broadcast networks, public television and the domestic cable outlets also indicate that approximately 23 million Americans tuned into the one-hour special, with more than 38.3 million viewers watching at least part of it. This number does not reflect those viewers who watched via internet service providers, radio listeners or viewers in 200-plus additional countries and territories.
While organizers Wednesday were still counting money raised from international territories, the amount is substantially below the $150 million raised after the 9/11 telethon.
But there was only a single two-hour telethon in September 2001, twice as long as this special. Also, it was competing for money with a multitude of other televised fundraisers. Finally, the country was united after the 2001 terrorist attacks, while deep political and racial divisions were apparent in the "blame game" that has followed the slow government response to the hurricane.
Still, the charities that benefited expressed gratitude.
"The Salvation Army wishes to thank the American people for coming together and embracing the citizens devastated by Hurricane Katrina,” Salvation Army National Commander W. Todd Bassett said in a statement released by the networks. “We'd also like to express our gratitude to the major broadcast networks, cable outlets and performers who gave of their time to help their fellow man. The Salvation Army will use these funds to provide food, shelter and comfort to those afflicted by this disaster."
Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairperson of the American Red Cross, added, "We are deeply grateful for the enormous generosity of television viewers who are supporting the vital work of our thousands of volunteers in the Katrina relief effort. This catastrophic event has touched all of America—and, indeed, the world—and is proving that the generosity of the American spirit can do anything when we are united behind a single purpose."