Cover Story: Lives in the Balance
“There are very sudden, large-impact crises like tsunami that become, for a short period of time, not only all encompassing for our staff to deal with, but also in the minds of the donor,” Neuman says. “And so it becomes almost — even if you have the capacity — inappropriate within the first weeks of something of that magnitude to be going on with business as usual.
“There’s a moment in time where that changes and then, of course, our whole team comes back and starts to fold back into the regular ways of doing business.”
Adam Hicks, vice president of marketing and communications for CARE USA, explains that the immediate response after a major disaster requires second-by-second assessment of funding needs.
“It becomes all encompassing very quickly. When an organization focuses very much on the poorest and most vulnerable people of the world, on the ultimate realization of human dignity and the value of human life, when something of that proportion happens, it begins to change the focus to sort of an all-hands-on-deck mentality,” he says.
“Certainly from a fundraising perspective, what we try very quickly to do is to work with our programmatic colleagues to understand the scope of the disaster, to determine the nature of what CARE’s response is going to be in it and to try to make an initial read as to what kinds of funds might be required,” he adds. “And in the case of the tsunami, we knew that the funds required were going to be very significant, and we knew that very quickly.”
Hicks describes the approach as a “two-pronged thing,” where the organization responds to the public’s demands for help and information, while getting the word out to donors about what’s needed.
“To business managers, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say you have some worries about the kind of impact this is going to have on the rest of the organization over time. But I think what we’ve strived to do is to pay proper attention to an unfolding tragedy but to try to think about timing very carefully,” he says.