Hurricane Season Is Here Again: Tough Fundraising Questions

Day-to-day nonprofit management can consist of a seemingly endless string of tough question and tougher answers. Perhaps at no time is this more true than when responding to a disaster; the questions roll up faster and there might not be enough time or resources to perfect answers.

    Julie Puzzo, vice president of development, and Chris Copley, director of marketing, for the American Kidney Fund (AKF) joined Justin McCord, vice president, digital & marketing strategy for RKD Group during the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s 2018 Washington Nonprofit Conference to discuss tough questions that your organization’s leaders should be asking themselves at times of crisis. Their session, “Unexpected Disruptions: When Disaster Strikes,” took place with last summer’s series of disastrous storms as a backdrop and included questions such as:

  • How are we going to do this? When Hurricane Harvey hit in August, AKF leadership had to decide whether it was relevant to the response efforts and, if so, how to act. AKF planned with partners and took a multi-department approach to show how it was leading the kidney community in response. This included the programs department monitoring the crisis daily, the communications team reaching out to media outlets, and, the development team executing corporate and individual fundraising efforts;
  • How will we stand out? First isn’t always best, but it helps. AKF succeeded with early media articles and its inclusion in Charity Navigator’s organization listing. Leaders doubled down on areas where AKF had early success and provided consistent, real-time updates via video, social media, press releases, blog posts, and infographics;
  • How do we know it’s working? Just about everything can be measured and AKF looked at impact (3,029 patients benefiting from $650,000 contributed), donors (700 new donors came aboard during the campaign), and social media impact (1.1 million users reached);
  • How are we going to avoid a fall? AKF’s disaster-response efforts felt like a year-end push before the year-end. Momentum was maintained by staying in donors’ eyesight, only — due to its Harvey efforts — it had hundreds of more donors to appeal to; and,
  • What’s next? Disaster response can change how organizations operate and how programming is seen. Stewardship, collaboration, and tone are key considerations moving forward.