“We’ve always prided ourselves on first being really prepared to react and then, when the disaster hits, acting very quickly,” De Galan says. “We have all our money-raising systems ready to go, whether it’s online or direct mail or telemarketing.”
An integration challenge
However, De Galan concedes that integrating the many channels through which gifts are received — especially in the frenetic environment of a disaster scenario — can be a challenge.
“We always have to make sure the message we’re sending out online is consistent with the one we’re sending out via direct mail or telemarketing,” he says. “It’s tough, in a fast-paced environment, to keep everyone on the same page.”
De Galan says he has about 65 people on his Portland team now, including a group of managers on whom he can depend to steer fundraising, marketing, communications and other aspects of the operation on regular business days, and to integrate fundraising channels smoothly in sudden high-volume situations.
But it’s not only the gift-processing systems that need to be ready when disaster hits. De Galan notes that managers need to have ready a list of phone numbers of people outside the organization who are important to the fundraising effort, such as partner agencies and technology providers and, per-haps most importantly, previous donors, who might give elsewhere if you fail to contact them quickly for their support after a disaster.
This is particularly true in the case of corporate donors. De Galan says that after the tsunami and again after Hurricane Katrina, corporations were eager to make gifts because they wanted to show their customers, shareholders, media outlets and the public at large that they were doing something to help.
“If you’re not calling your corporate contacts within a couple of hours after a disaster hits, they’re going to use somebody else,” he says. “You’ve got to have the contact information at your fingertips at all times and be ready to react.