During an emergency, charities need to react quickly to help individuals in the community that require support. A fast response to a crisis is going to mitigate the shock to the community, but it will also have positive effects on your nonprofit organization. Your organization can greatly benefit from all of the hard work involved in responding to an emergency if the right planning is in place. During a crisis, new donors will give to the cause, and your organization must continue to nurture a relationship with them.
The Crisis Donation Trend
During a crisis, there can be a spike in donations as soon as a disaster relief campaign starts. It’s common for contributions to come in all at once and immediately dry up as time passes. The concern with having a tremendous spike in donations that eventually stop coming in is that a crisis can last for quite a while and impact society for longer. A perfect example is the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities have been deeply affected by the coronavirus for two months, and the need for financial, health, and food support hasn’t eased one bit. It will be months until many people will be able to get back on their feet. As such, it would be ideal if the spike in donations doesn’t drop (like the red line you see in the graph below), but instead stays a healthy course which will likely see a slight drop, but not a significant one (like the orange line below.)
It’s common to see a drop in donations right after a disaster occurs (as shown by the red line.) Ideally, with a smart communications strategy in place, donations would gradually continue to come in (as shown by the orange line.)
It's useful to have a smart communications strategy in place to continue to see incoming donations after the initial emergency response spike. Staying in touch with potential donors via email can be very helpful. A weekly email strategy to the contacts in your database will ensure you are fresh on their minds. A useful tactic is to target the emails by segmenting the contacts in your database by their area of interest. If a contact has donated to public school programs in the past, it's more likely that they would be more prone to support a program that provides meals for school children rather than a program that distributes financial assistance to low-income families. A smart communication strategy also leverages social media's power to promote all the ways your organization supports the community. By sharing videos, resources, and engaging your audience regularly, you can increase your brand awareness — which will directly impact your perceived value in the community.
Focus on Key Areas and Know Your Demographic
Nonprofit organizations that have seen success in their emergency relief campaigns have focused on key areas where their communities need support. For example, United Way of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, focused on two specific areas for their COVID-19 relief campaign. One area of focus was food assistance because 66% of Broward County public school students rely on free or reduced lunches. The other area of focus was emergency financial assistance for individuals with safety net issues. By choosing an area of focus that aligns directly with community needs, your nonprofit organization will be better able to communicate a more explicit message to donors, resulting in a more effective campaign.
Rather than focusing on an ‘individual donor’ approach, United Way of Midland County, in Midland, Michigan, placed their attention on workplace donations. They created customized emergency relief webpages for the business partners in their community.
Knowing your demographic is crucial to putting a successful campaign plan in place. For example, does your nonprofit organization receive its majority of donations from individuals in the community or workplace donors? If employee donations are your strength, your campaign strategy should focus on building the right partnerships for workplace appeals. For example, United Way of Midland County in Midland, Michigan, created customized donation webpages for different businesses in their community. The bespoke webpages help make a more profound personalized experience for donors, resulting in a more substantial influx of engagement.
Responding quickly to a community crisis.
How prepared is your organization to receive and distribute funds to its community if an emergency occurs? Watch this webinar to hear some crisis response strategies and learn the benefits of having a database integrated with your online pledging tool.
Building Your Existing Donor Base
Nonprofits often think about the community benefits of the service they provide while forgetting how their actions might benefit them too. Charitable organizations also need to consider that responding to a crisis not only helps the community but also helps the nonprofit organization. As your organization targets specific needs, the engagement you receive from donors serves as great data to grow and enhance your programs. The understanding and knowledge that you gain as you respond to constituents are quite valuable. All of this new information can be used to build your donor database by turning one-time donors into recurring donors.
Crisis campaign efforts don’t have to be a one-time, heat-of-the-moment endeavour for your organization. There is a great opportunity to analyze the data you receive as you collect donations from disaster relief efforts. For instance, you can compare ‘individual donations’ (that come in as a result of a crisis) to ‘employee donations’ (that come in from workplace fundraising campaigns.) If individual donors aren’t engaging as employee donors, that’s a fresh opportunity for engaging them in the workplace. You may also find that you have donors who give funds to your disaster relief campaign more than once. A recurring giving trend like this indicates that the donor is particularly interested in disaster relief causes; therefore, it would help if your marketing engagement approach reflects those interests.
A nonprofit organization will be more effective in raising funds if it has a strategy that is directly aligned with its community needs. Reacting quickly to an emergency crisis not only services the community you support, it also helps your nonprofit organization. Building the relevance of your organization, creating partnerships, and promoting the value of your organization can all be parallel results of your emergency relief efforts.
Learn from others in this interview-style webinar.
Webinar panelists are Stephanie Metrie, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at United Way of Broward County, and Kali Cochran, Director of Investor Relations and Digital Transformation at United Way of Midland County. Both United Ways set up COVID-19 emergency relief fund pages using Andar e-Pledge. Learn what their intent was, what the process was like, and their results in this interview-style webinar.