As we saw this week with the devastating tornadoes in middle Tennessee, Mother Nature can wreak havoc and upend lives in an instant.
Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Floods. Fires. Blizzards. Earthquakes. Monsoons. Pandemics…
No matter where you live, the risk is always present.
Several of our clients have been in the midst of disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, Hurricane Ike in 2008, Bastrop Fires in 2011, Oklahoma City Tornado in 2013, the floods in south east Texas in 2019 and now the tornado damage in middle Tennessee. We have learned a few things along the way in how to be prepared for the unexpected.
For those organizations on the ground responding to disasters in any capacity, a sudden need for emergency funding isn’t uncommon. Don’t get caught off guard. Be prepared (not panicked) for anything that may require an urgent response from your organization.
Prepare communication in advance.
Email to the Rescue
The easiest – but most important – fundraising tool you have in the event of an emergency is good old-fashioned email.
It’s not a big undertaking to write, design and even build out an email series to be put on the shelf for a just-in-case scenario.
Create variable versions that can be quickly updated depending on the disaster. If your region is prone to both tornadoes and floods, for example, create an email that works for either except the opening paragraph that can be updated when the disaster actually strikes.
Use simple and urgent artwork and employ the words “urgent” and “update” generously in your subject lines, preview text and headers.
You’ll raise more money more quickly if you make the appeal restricted specifically to disaster relief. But there’s also a good case for wording it in a way that doesn’t restrict the income to disaster relief in case you raise more than you can use for the current emergency. We’ve seen this happen to several organizations and it can be tricky.
Prepare written communication in the form of a simple letter
Write a simple letter and send on a simple form. We recommend a 8-1/2 x 14 form that can be personalized and mailed within a few days to your supporters. Let them know the status of the organization and how they can help. Let them know how you are responding to the disaster. Be direct, ask them for help and be clear how it will be used.
Get Outside the (Individual Donor) Bubble
Need more help than you can get from your individual donors? Reach out to your foundation and corporate partners. Many foundations have disaster-related grants available to apply for in just such an instance. And businesses often want to show how supportive they are of their community by being visible donors to disaster-relief causes.
Your direct response partner should have the tools to help you prepare in the (rather likely) event of an emergency. If not, reach out and we’re happy to get you started: firstname.lastname@example.org.