A Mammoth Mess
“Keep in mind, over a million people from the New Orleans area out of 1.3 million people were out of here. Those are our members, those are our customers, those are our donors, and our volunteers. They were all over the country,” Conkerton says.
The Internet was the only way ANI could reach out to these constituents, and it offered the added opportunity to touch concerned citizens across the nation. Indeed, as a major visitor attraction in New Orleans, about 80 percent of ANI’s visitation comes from out-of-towners, giving it some level of familiarity beyond the city.
Conkerton turned to Schultz for advice, and he recommended the organization enlist the help of Austin-based online constituent relationship management solutions provider Convio, which already was working with the American Red Cross in its online efforts to raise funds for Katrina recovery.
Regroup and respond
ANI had no time to waste. By the time it got a fundraising strategy in place, almost two weeks had passed since the storm, and it desperately was in need of funds to move its remaining aquarium collection to facilities with power. Its efforts got the attention of local and national media, and it needed to leverage that media coverage by having a relevant Web site to drive people to. The organization’s server was down, but with Juge in Austin and Conkerton in Dallas, the two were able to meet with Convio and get a site — that would normally take three months to launch — up within 36 hours.
The first priority was to arm ANI with a way to communicate with constituents and let them know what was going on for the organization, and then move into a fundraising strategy where they could communicate proactively with supporters.
Getting a recovery message on the site was crucial. The primary focus of the Web site previously had been ANI’s facilities and all it had to offer visitors.