Fundraising Lessons Learned From Haiti
FS: How can nonprofits be prepared for emergency situations?
SM: We recommend that every nonprofit has an emergency-response or rapid-response plan in place within the organization, no matter what that organization is engaged in. So that from a people, process or technology standpoint, they're prepared to deal with it. Is the staff aware of what that plan is? When it comes to online and social media, do they have an alternate version of their Web site ready to go that can be published in a moment's notice, with maybe a pared-down design, big focus on the emergency situation, news? Same thing with the use of e-mail communication out to supporters or volunteers? A lot of that stuff can be prepared in advance. Nonprofits that successfully reacted to the Haiti situation, a lot of their work was all done in advance. They weren't caught by surprise.
In addition to having a communication plan for supporters, donors, volunteers, staff members, we also see a growing need for nonprofits to have an established communications plan with the media and, now especially, online content sites. One of the things that we've seen happen over the past couple of major events that have taken place is how quickly the online media sites — CNN, MSNBC, even Google, Yahoo, those outlet sites — quickly publish places people can go to donate online or text to give online. Again, that's something organizations can have prepared in advance. They can establish those relationships in advance so that when this stuff happens, they're prepared. That should be part of any good plan as well.
And then I think the last point on the technology side is asking yourself and asking your vendor if you can handle the types of volume that we're now seeing. Traditionally, the last week of December of any calendar year is the largest online giving month of the entire year. And when we looked at the first three days following the Haiti earthquake and compared that to December giving, it was three to four times the size. Is that something you can handle with the technology you have in place? Do the tools allow you to take that magnitude of traffic? Over time that's only going to grow more and more and more as, unfortunately, these types of events happen.