The figures look even more impressive when you measure Mercy Corps’ progress over the past decade.
“When I started, we were raising about $2.5 million a year, and over the course of about seven or eight years we experienced steady growth and increased that figure to about $10 million a year,” De Galan recalls. “And then a series of natural disasters occurred, and we had an explosion of giving.”
Those disasters included the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the Pakistan earthquake in October 2005 — all within a 10-month span that spread out across two fiscal years.
From 2004 to 2005, the donated cash total at Mercy Corps grew from $10 million to $42 million, and last year it went up another million to $43 million.
“What we’ve done over the years,” De Galan says, “is elevate the size of our fundraising by a factor of four. It was due to the incredible generosity of Americans in the wake of all the disasters that happened over the past few years.”
It also was due to Mercy Corps having met one of the biggest challenges in the world of emergency relief — putting into place the technology and manpower to handle the significant increase in donations to be processed when disaster hits. It’s something that not all nonprofits — even large, deeply rooted or high-profile ones — have been able to do when the need arose.
Preparedness is key, De Galan says. Let’s say you normally raise $5,000 to $6,000 a day online and suddenly are faced with processing $1 million in donations in one day. When this happens, you’d better have people on staff who have created a Web site, or sites, flexible enough to handle a burst of altruism. You’d better have a phone system that works smoothly when the volume of calls soars. And you’d better have managers with the ability to quickly hire new people who can handle a huge volume of donations smoothly enough to keep would-be donors from getting frustrated.