How to Communicate in the Shadow of the Japanese Disaster – Practical Tips for Nonprofits

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when this most recent crisis of epic proportions—the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan—is rightly dominating our minds and conversations, as well as the media?

For a nonprofit, the answer lies in the way (if any) your organization is involved in the relief effort. The following guidelines derive from an analysis of news of, and fundraising for, recovery efforts around the Japanese earthquake and Pacific tsunami disasters. Note that relief donations are far below those for the Haitian earthquake relief effort, and some groups are questioning whether Japanese relief giving is beneficial or necessary.

It’s likely that your nonprofit is facing one or more of these challenges right now. Read the full article for more practical guidance on how to move your marketing forward, despite the troubled times.

For organizations providing disaster relief services in Japan

  • Make it clear why your organization is well-equipped to help. Be as specific as possible.
  • Communicate broadly, clearly and visually (if possible) about how donations are managed, where they are going and what your organization’s relief effort is achieving.

For organizations fundraising for relief efforts, but not directly providing help

  • Be proactive and specific in conveying the process for distributing donations and where/how/when the money will be spent.
  • Explain why your organization has chosen to get involved as a pass through for donations.
For other nonprofits continuing with fundraising and communications outreach
  • Be sensitive to inappropriate pitches.
  • Relate your work to relief work when relevant—but don’t distort or overstate.

More guidance on communicating in the shadow of the Japanese disaster.

Your Strategies?
What are your strategies for communicating and fundraising productively in the shadow of disaster? Please share your strategies here.

P.S. Learn how to strengthen your nonprofit’s marketing impact with the new 2011 Guide to Nonprofit Marketing Wisdom.

Nancy Schwartz on March 24, 2011 in Branding and Messages | 2 comments
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  • Three strategies that I believe are useful:

    1. Be Empathetic – disasters are not a fundraising opportunity! They are however sometimes a good way to bring attention to the work you are doing. Focus on being sensitive and the donations will follow.

    2. Be sustainable – the wake of a disaster is not the time to set up a nonprofit. While there is often immediate need following a disaster, leave this response to those organizations with a long history in the affected areas. Instead focus on developing long term and sustainable solutions to help the area.

    3. Be simple – with so much buzz and nonprofits “competing” for donations, those interested in helping financially can become overwhelmed. Tell people one simple way your nonprofit is trying to help and ask for one key actionable way for your supporters to contribute.

  • Nancy Schwartz

    Thanks much, David. These are three important, and practical, strategies.

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