haiti

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 in Branding and Messages | 2 comments
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How to Communicate in the Shadow of Disaster -- Guidelines for Respectful but Effective Outreach

As I read accounts of Haitians struggling for basic needs post-earthquake, I’m struck by the number of lives that have been taken and touched by this disaster. It’s almost all one can think of.

That’s a significant communications challenge for the nonprofit organizations 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 earthquake, and the plight of survivors, is no longer 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 that must maintain their communications and fundraising initiatives despite the world’s focus on disaster recovery?

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when even the most recent crisis of epic proportions—the January 2010 7.0 earthquake in Haiti—has generated less giving than the Hurricane Katrina relief effort?

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, relief efforts in the response to the Haitian earthquake and the plight of its three million survivors in need. Review them today to ensure you’re taking the most effective path in this tricky time.

P.S. Here’s another useful guide to read right now: You’re Not in Competition with Haiti.

P.P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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Red Cross' Communications Innovation in Haiti Disaster Relief Effort -- Smart StuffBefore digging into American Red Cross’ stellar communications on the Haitian earthquake relief effort, I urge you to contribute to help the people of Haiti. Here’s a list of several organizations you can give to.

Please spread the word to colleagues, family and friends. Relief needs are huge.

At the moment of, I wanted to tip my hat to the American Red Cross for its immediate and creative communications strategy on the situation in Haiti and fundraising for relief efforts (through its International Response Fund). Their work is a great model for your organization when you’re responding to a crisis or simply handling everyday business.

Here’s how the Red Cross’ communication innovation is boosting the impact of disaster communications:

  1. Pushing out the latest from Haiti via the Disaster Online Newsroom, a blog that makes it easy for Red Cross staffers to get new info out a.s.a.p.
  2. Producing almost-real-time, short-form, easy-to-absorb video on the state of the devastation and the challenges faced by the relief effort. This video was “on the air” (via the blog) five hours after the earthquake struck.
  3. Sharing the Red Cross’ relief strategy as it evolves (via the video). The weak infrastructure in Haiti has resulted in the collapse of many entries into the damaged entries. The Red Cross outlines its preparation in surrounding countries for entering Haiti today.
  4. Making it incredibly easy to give via mobile phone.Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti.
  5. Mobilizing social media tools to spur awareness, giving and conversation in multiple communities. You can follow the Red Cross’ Haitian relief news via Twitter (@RedCross), the org blog and Facebook.

Overall, the Red Cross is doing a great job in utilizing a broad range of communications channels and capitalizing on each one’s strengths.

Other organization’s are also responding effectively. Oxfam has communicated its relief focus (public health, water and sanitation to prevent the spread of waterborne disease) which is very helpful in making giving decisions. Partners in Health, already on the ground in Haiti, is bringing medical assistance and supplies to hardest-hit areas.

P.S. Follow these key strategies to maintain the impact of your org’s communications in the shadow of a disaster like this one.

To learn more about social media and other key communications strategies, get the in-depth articles and case studies featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 comments
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