A Mammoth Mess
“It was, ‘Come to our facilities, we have all these great things to see and do; this is why you want to come here,’ versus, ‘We’re a nonprofit organization and we desperately need your support to fulfill our mission.’ So we had to kind of shift the focus,” Conkerton says.
But the positioning of its message had to be handled with tact as well, given the fact that ANI’s need was competing with serious human disasters.
Initial components of the site were a request for donations, a letter from ANI CEO Ron Foreman, a press release about the animal relocation and a Web-based Gmail address to contact the organization. Until ANI’s mail server was up and running again in October, Conkerton says she was a regular at the public library in Seven Points, Texas, where every day she’d take over a computer station to check and respond to constituent e-mails. Some of the e-mails included pictures from people who had visited the aquarium days before the storm as a sort of tribute, others were from extended family members of employees who hadn’t been heard from since Katrina, and others offered things such as helicopters to airlift food to the animals.
As soon as the site was up and running, the organization sent out an emergency e-mail to its existing e-mail list of 30,000 and urged those constituents to ask their friends and family members to donate. The organization also urged supporters to add its Web address to their e-mail signature line to drum up additional awareness and support.
ANI set out to raise $60 million from private and public sources over the course of the next 36 months, and it broke the campaign into three phases. The first goal was to raise $10 million within six months so that it could open its doors, feed and care for the animals, and sustain a base number of employees. Its second goal was to raise another $25 million in 18 months for operations plus damage repairs and building an infrastructure that safeguards against similar situations. By the 36-month mark, ANI planned to raise another $25 million for projects that were in the works when Katrina hit, including final production of its IMAX film “Hurricane on the Bayou,” a documentary on Louisiana’s wetlands that was in the midst of being filmed when the storm hit.