The past 36 hours have been crucial for disaster relief organizations across the world as they reach out to supporters requesting donations, volunteers and general support for the efforts to help Haitians in need. And at a time when many organizations are moving quickly and may not have the time to outline a formal, full-fledged strategy for outreach, I wanted to share 7 best practices that can help any organization looking for guidance on how to make the greatest impact during such a devastating time of need.
- Hijack your homepage to make Haiti the focus if it is a significant fundraising effort. Use clear calls to action to donate and share through social media or TAF.
- Include a clear description in news articles and relevant forms of the role your organization will play in the relief effort. Particularly note any past work in Haiti or any teams already on the ground.
- Make it clear what people are donating to.
- Avoid sending people to a general form. There are two problems with this: 1 – savvy donors will question where the money is going and 2 – other donors will assume it is going to Haiti. However, without systems set up clearly designating it, your organization will not be able to fulfill the donor intent, which can also lead to a PR nightmare.
- If they are donating specifically to the Haiti effort make that clear. Monitor how much you are raising and make sure the funds are designated to that effort – they cannot be repurposed elsewhere unless you make it clear that once the need it met additional funds will go to preparedness for the next emergency / wherever the need is greatest / etc.
- If you’re concerned about the degree of designation you can or are willing to support for online giving, promote a general emergency relief fund but make your purpose clear. Use language like “Donations to this fund go to emergency relief work.” Cite examples where you will use the funds, e.g. in response to natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes. Make it clear where funds might be used: worldwide? Countries including….
- Be careful how you’re using monthly giving now for the same reason – you probably don’t want it on a form designated to a specific disaster.
- Best practices in form design are critical – above all right now, make sure forms are short (using the minimum number of fields) and display any 3rd party verifications of your effectiveness/legitimacy in the effort, including Verisign, Charity Navigator Ratings, Charity Watch Ratings, or BBB status.
- If you have a social media effort, now is the time to provide relevant updates. Do retweet or post links to news articles that will provide value to your friends and followers, but only post when you have something of value and interest to say.
- Do plan to send follow up email messages including information educating disaster donors about your broader mission and offering them the opportunity to become a regular member or monthly donor (within the next few weeks). Right now lack of supplies is a major obstacle in the relief efforts. If monthly donor gifts (or any additional gift) help your organization to prepare in advance for emergencies and ensure rapid response, make that part of the appeal.
The above 7 quick tips should help guide any nonprofit organization looking to help online in this crucial time in the right direction to connect with supporters, maintain proper communications and produce results online – both in raising needed funds and creating a groundswell of public support.