That’s what happened to Boston-based international relief and health care organization Partners in Health (PIH).
When the devastating earthquake struck in Haiti in 2010, PIH and its digital fundraising partner Blue State Digital (BSD) mobilized and launched an entirely new website focused on the quake, says Joe Rospars, CEO of BSD. This helped PIH get in touch with all its donors and supporters on its housefile, while also allowing the organization to sign up more people and have supporters spread the word to people who hadn’t heard of PIH before.
Then something unexpected happened. When actor George Clooney led a telethon to point to charities aiding Haiti, such an influx of donors rushed to their computers and phones to help that just about all of the charities’ websites went down — including the Red Cross. But at that time, thanks to the new website designed to handle a hugely increased load, PIH’s site was one of the only ones up and running, able to process donations and sign up volunteers.
“These kinds of opportunities give potential donors and volunteers the ability to own the cause, to make them feel like they have a concrete impact in the world,” Rospars says. “It points to the bulletproof infrastructures that allow you to seize the moment when people turn their eyes to you like in this moment. We were able to do that in that key moment.
“You can’t move those spikes. If you chop the top off because your site goes down, you sort of miss the moment. PIH was able to rise to the occasion and do more good that really needed to be done,” he adds.
As a result, a relatively small nonprofit transformed into a “different order of magnitude,” as Rospars puts it. “The hard part is when people stop paying attention to the crisis,” he adds.