Are You Ready for an Emergency Campaign?
I can’t tell you how many times over the past years that I have been at direct-marketing and fundraising conferences and heard, “If only our organization had disaster or emergency response within our scope — we could raise big dollars too!”
Nonprofits of all sizes will, at some point, face some level of emergency. Those organizations that have proven and practiced plans in place before the fact, and act quickly to respond to issues in the media, will find fundraising success.
Take the example of a small organization that has worked on issues in the Middle East for more than 36 years. When fighting broke out last summer in Lebanon, leaving thousands homeless, hungry and without medical care, the organization followed its updated Emergency Fundraising Plan and purchased keywords on the Internet so that when people typed in “Lebanon,” the organization was listed as one of the agencies offering relief to that region.
Additionally, it immediately went out to its existing and lapsed donors with an emergency appeal in the mail and online. These prompt, dynamic actions resulted in a significant lift in the number and size of donations received both on and off line.
Or the example of a large international nonprofit that was unprepared for the onslaught of gifts around the 2005 Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina as the public looked for a way to support long-term, ongoing operations once the initial disaster had passed. As a result, systems were strained to the limit, with both new and existing donors not being cultivated for future emergency gifts.
In order to be prepared for the next emergency or disaster, the organization brought together all parties, including staff and vendors, to create a comprehensive plan defining detailed steps to be taken by all staff, from senior leadership on down. Included in the plan is running an annual mock emergency to test timing and systems — offering both much-needed practice and suggestions for updating the plan to meet changing organizational priorities and needs.