How to Fundraise in the Wake of Disaster

As I read accounts of Typhoon Haiyan survivors struggling for basic needs, I’m struck by the number of lives that have been taken and touched by this disaster in the Philippines.

That’s a significant communications challenge for the nonprofit organizations that work delivering aid: How to mobilize giving while communicating respectfully about their efforts and impact on the ground? How to keep giving going even as the Typhoon, and the plight of survivors, fades from top of mind?

And what about the many other organizations not directly providing relief efforts but soliciting donations to pass on to relief organizations? Or the majority of nonprofits, like most of the your organizations, that have to carry on with communications and fundraising initiatives despite the global focus on recovery in the Philippines—nonprofits counting on the gifts they hope to generate via their year-end campaigns?

For every organization, the answer lies in the way (if any) your organization is involved in the relief effort. Here’s my recommendation:

For organizations providing disaster relief services in the Philippines

  • 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.
  • Be thoughtful in your use of graphic photos of the disaster.
  • Follow-up to transition disaster donors into loyal donors.

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 unrelated to Haiyan relief

  • Be sensitive to inappropriate pitches.
  • Connect your work to the disaster and relief work when relevant—but don’t overstate. Climate change folks, this means you!
  • Take a breath, assess (e.g. change any metaphors related to flooding or drowning), make other updates as necessary and continue the rest of your planned communications and fundraising campaigns.
  • Keep your ear close to the ground to capture, and respond to, your audiences’ perspective.
What are your strategies for productive fundraising productively in the wake of disaster? Please share them here.
More guidance on fundraising post-disaster

Be Prepared: Crisis Communications Checklist  Take this nine-step path to get your post-Haiyan fundraising and marketing relevant and productive.

 P.S.  Donate to the relief effort for Filipino survivors—it’s what we CAN do. My friend and colleague, Beth Kanter, lists a few giving options here.

Nancy Schwartz on November 14, 2013 in Crisis Communications | 4 comments
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  • bethkanter

    Thanks for this terrific post and guidelines and also for the link love.

  • Thanks, Beth, and thanks for putting together such a great guide for giving to support relief efforts.

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