“If you’re off skiing in the Rockies and disaster hits and you’re not ready to deal with it,” he cautions, “you’re going to miss out on a lot of money.”
De Galan notes that the tsunami was “without a doubt” the biggest and most complicated challenge to Mercy Corps’ rapid-response capabilities. The disaster affected many countries at the same time and inspired some donors who wanted to give to Sri Lanka, some who wanted to give to Indonesia and others who didn’t care which country got their gifts. Also, Mercy Corps’ efforts to serve areas that were in many ways hard to get to caused big organizational headaches.
“On the other hand, we raised $32 million for tsunami [relief], which was by far the most we ever raised for a single disaster or a single cause,” he says. “You had people motivated to give in ways that the world has never before seen, and hopefully will never see again, because it would take something unbelievably catastrophic to get that kind of response.”
Although justifiably proud of Mercy Corps’ fundraising achievements to date, De Galan also is eager for the organization to begin taking advantage of more cutting-edge fundraising tools.
“There are a lot of new technologies coming out, and you need to make sure they don’t pass you by,” he says. “Mobile phone technology is an interesting one. We haven’t done anything with that. I see a lot of groups using the Internet for podcasts. We haven’t done anything with that either.”
In general, De Galan and other Mercy Corps leaders realize that the digital age offers nonprofits a chance to connect donors with the organization in a way that’s fast and very real.
This is especially important if you’re raising money for work that’s being done on a global scale, as opposed to, say, the local symphony orchestra or opera company or some entity to which donors would have ready access.