fundraising: Haiti round up

The buzz about the Haiti-effect on fundraising in 2010 is growing nearly as fast the number of dollars that are being raised for relief. We’ve been drawn into several questions and discussions about how the massive relief and fundraising efforts will impact income for 2010.
Haiti Disaster Relief
Interestingly, I’ve heard and read several in our business who discount any concerns.

For us, we think it is wise to consider if all the dollars North Americans are sending to Haiti will negatively impact your fundraising. A couple of points to consider:

  • Many organizations did experience drops/dips in income following the Tsunami and Katrina disasters. Not everyone did and not every drop in income really was due to those tragedies.
  • It is reasonable to assume that many donors think they have a finite number of dollars they can give to worthy causes each month and if they send those dollars to help in Haiti, then they may not be able to give to your organization.
  • There is no substitute for a tragedy broadcast 24/7 on all the major networks for helping motivate donors. People are giving because they are moved to give by what they are seeing and hearing.

So what do you do?

Don’t chase the dollars. If you’re not working in Haiti or don’t have a history of working in disasters like this, resist the temptation to create something so you can get your donors to give to you.

Don’t ignore that your donors are thinking about Haiti. If you’re connecting with your donors with bland, budget-oriented communications, you may not lose donations in the short-term. “We need to meet our budget goal” or “We need to pay for our new building” or “We need you to give because we’re counting on you” may not stand up well against the opportunity to provide food, water, shelter and medical care for an orphan who’s sleeping on the streets of Port au Prince.

Don’t push the guilt button. Resist the temptation to caution your donors not to give too much to the relief efforts or to try to compare what you do with what is happening down there.

Don’t assume all donors are disaster relief donors. They aren’t. And many who are giving currently to relief efforts will never be your donors.

Don’t panic. It is way to early to be certain that your income has been impacted. Don’t listen to the Chicken Littles who are certain you need to slash budgets before it gets too bad.

What should you do?

First. Pray for the people of Haiti, the relief workers and the organizations who are at work there. It is a terrible mess. I was in Central America following the El Salvador earthquakes and Hurricane Mitch. If you haven’t seen and smelled what natural disasters are like up close, you can’t imagine.

Second. Work your plan. Don’t start tacking yet. Don’t let the Board or your boss distract you. Continue to do the good work you’ve got set in front of you.

Third. Do some research. Was there a clearly identifable drop in income following Katrina or the Tsunami? Are you sure? How long did it last? If you’re sure you see a historic downtrend, what were your fundraising efforts at that time? Did the drop happen because you were doing a bad job of connecting with your donors’ hearts or really because they switched their giving? You may find you have nothing to worry about. And if you find some scary possibilities, begin thinking about what you will do IF you begin to see the effect again. (Note: it is too early to be seeing an effect right now).

Finally. Reexamine your messaging in your current appeals and website. What are you saying to your donors? Are you connecting with their hearts with a well-crafted message of how they can change a life or the world? Are you helping your donors understand how important they are to people you impact? (Again, not important to your budget, important to people)

Now is not the time to get worried. This is the time for steady hands on the wheel and confidence that God is at work. This is a good time to reassure your Board, boss and the staff around you. They’re probably wondering, so get out there with a message of confidence, certainty and credibility.

More to come on Haiti and fundraising. For now, don’t forget it’s going to be OK. You know who’s in control.

What about you? What are your plans? What do you think is going to happen with your income this year?

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: simminch)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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