When the Haiti earthquake hit back in January, the outcry and response were swift and plentiful. In this new era of the iPhone and other mobile devices, the biggest buzz in the fundraising sector was generated from the mobile-giving explosion following the disaster. But the biggest takeaway for fundraisers — all of them, not just disaster-relief organizations — is that donors have certain, higher expectations these days, and your organization must meet them.
That was the emphasis of the session "Beyond Crisis: How Haiti Changed Everything" presented by moderator Kristin McCurry, managing director of MINDset Direct; and speakers Mark Melia, deputy vice president for charitable giving at Catholic Relief Services; Alicia Meulensteen, director of direct response at the ASPCA; Amanda Seller, director of international fundraising at the UN Refugee Agency; and David Whitehead, senior vice president and chief development officer at the AARP Foundation at the 2010 Bridge Conference held last month in National Harbor, Md.
When you look at it, only Catholic Relief Services is a true disaster-relief organization, yet all the presenters’ organizations got involved in the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. The main reason? Their donors and supporters implored them to.
“[AARP Foundation is] not a disaster-relief organization, but we felt very flat-footed during and after Hurricane Katrina,” Whitehead said. “People were calling us and asking us what we’re doing about Katrina; they expected us to be there, to help. So we responded to that and were ready when Haiti happened.”
“The people displaced in Haiti weren’t refugees, so we couldn’t go right in,” Seller added. “But for two or three days — we were sending out news as we were figuring out our plan — we were getting contacted by our donors, major donors, multimillion-dollar donors who wanted to reach people affected by the Haiti earthquake now. In some cases, we recommended the donor give to another organization if we couldn’t immediately help — the most important thing is the relationship with donors.”