Responding to Political Emergencies
In the session, “Planning for Emergencies: Is Your Organization Ready?” presented at the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2006 New York Nonprofit Conference earlier this month, Lorelei Schroeter, former director of direct response for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, outlined the organization’s three key steps when faced with political emergencies.
Step 1: Defining what is an emergency situation. Schroeter said the definition of “emergency situations” can vary by organization. For PPFA there are two categories: usual emergencies, e.g., upcoming bills in the house or senate; and ground-breaking emergencies, e.g., this past spring South Dakota’s governor signed into law a ban on abortion.
Schroeter said emergencies are fundraising opportunities when they are both actionable — i.e., there is a role outside of funding the organization that supporters can take part in — and sustainable. An emergency’s sustainability usually is dependent on the amount of media coverage it receives. An emergency’s level of sustainability will determine whether the campaign takes place via the Internet only or whether the organization can mobilize all of its channels around it.
Step 2: Assessment of the emergency. Organizations should analyze the situation’s size and time frame and then determine if there are enough resources to handle it or if more funds are needed.
Step 3: Strategic Response. Put a response in place that is structured and prioritizes what gets done, when it gets done and by whom. Schroeter recommended that organizations:
* Create an immediate-response team. PPFA has a TOAD (Turn On A Dime) team that meets by phone every day for five minutes to discuss current issues and possible emergencies;
* Identify key external players;
* Consider alliances with other groups. For example, PPFA has partnered with NARAL Pro-Choice America, fellow advocate for privacy and a woman’s right to choose, on emergency political campaigns; and
* Have an online emergency team at the ready.
Part of the response plan should include identifying a call to action. Schroeter stressed keeping the message simple (you most likely will be talking about issues that are new to supporters) precise, time-constrained (“We need money and we need it now”). It’s also vital to include a clear indicator of success so supporters know what it means that the campaign is successful.
The response plan also should include a targeted strategy in which the organization is clear on how it will use advocacy and fundraising efforts and who the campaign specifically targets. For example, is it going to activists only, donors only or both?
Schroeter also stressed the importance of “closing the loop” and letting donors know what was accomplished, using language that refers to “what you accomplished together.” It’s also important to link the specific political emergency supporters were involved with to your organization’s core, ongoing program work so that you can build a bridge for donors to stay connected to your work and support you in the future.
For more information, visit www.ppfa.org