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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 Holiday Catalog Showcases Donor Impact -- Take this Cue

The American Red Cross does a stellar job in showing precisely how a donor’s gift will be used in its first-time holiday catalog.The catalog is definitely inspired by the Heifer Foundation‘s long-running holiday catalog, but the Red Cross has done a great job here. The organization has also done a great job in providing useful context for its transition to this still unusual strategy with its catalog FAQs.

Back to the catalog — I’m the biggest proponent ever of showing, not telling. That’s what builds trust, and relationships. One highly-effective strategy is to show donors how their gifts are used and this holiday catalog is a proactive example of doing just that.

Next step for the Red Cross is to keep its donors (especially catalog givers and giftees) informed on how their dollars are actually used (what disaster, how many helped). Hope to see it!

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit fundraising and marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Fundraising: Innovations & Research | 1 comment
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