The Crisis-Responsive Fundraiser
Within hours of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall in the Philippines, e-mails were arriving from international relief and development nonprofits that work in that region. Their message was short but clear: We are responding; please help.
Having worked in the international research and development space for years, I know that these nonprofits have a plan in place for a disaster. They don't know when the next one will be or even what form it will take — but they know a crisis is inevitable. So they craft a plan, revise it after each experience of having to implement it and, in quiet times, review it again to be sure they are ready to respond.
And this is not simply the program staffers who are on-the-ground, distributing assistance and supplies from the stockpiles they maintain in disaster-prone regions. It's the fundraising team, as well.
While we all respond to tragedies like Typhoon Haiyan in our own way, as fundraisers we need to regard it as a wake-up call — even if our work never involves responses to natural disasters. This is because some form of a crisis is inevitable, and how we respond determines if our nonprofit comes through mostly unscathed or if the fallout affects our ability to raise funds for years to come.
For example, what will you do if one of these situations occur?
- The death or serious injury of a staff person, volunteer or participant
- A lawsuit brought by an employee, volunteer or participant
- Destruction of a facility by fire, tornado or other natural cause
- A community situation that affects your ability to carry out your work
- A natural disaster that affects your service area
- Negative press coverage, whether justified or unjustified
This is not a complete list; you can probably add some other potential crises based on your location, mission or past experience.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.