How to create an effective disaster fundraising campaign

Fundraising Campaign Types October 18, 2017 By Kevin Wolfe


It’s said you can’t plan for a disaster. But really, you have to. The recent string of natural disasters has shown many organizations the need for having a fundraising plan in place for when disasters happen. In this article, we’ll focus on the basics that will make your fundraising campaign thrive. Here’s our concise six-point plan:

  1. Set up a donation page immediately
  2. Explain the impact of the disaster and their donation
  3. Promote your campaign everywhere
  4. Update supporters constantly on disaster news and campaign success
  5. Offer peer-to-peer fundraising so supporters can do more
  6. Thank and keep communicating

If you follow these six points, you can get your campaign live and fundraising quickly.

1. Set up a donation page immediately

The public’s first response to a disaster is to help by donating. The majority of disaster relief giving happens while the story is in the news. But even big disasters can be bumped from the headlines within 24 hours. So if your nonprofit wants to help, you need to get your campaign live immediately. The we’ll-meet-on-it-tomorrow attitude isn’t an option since it can mean you’ve missed out on helping at all. It’s more important that you get the page up quickly than it is to get the fine print right. (You can change content as you get details.) For an even quicker response, have a draft of a disaster page ready with as much information pre-populated as you can.

2. Explain the impact of the disaster and their donation

The impact of a disaster runs much deeper than your donors know. Floods often bring disease. A disruption in the public health infrastructure can lead to more health problems than the original disaster caused. There are also long-term effects to the environment and the economy in areas that have been hit. The more your supporters understand the immediacy and the full impact of the disaster, the more likely they are to donate immediately, as well as long-term.

Likewise, it’s critical for supporters to know how you intend to use their donations. DonorDrive client World Vision was gifted with millions of pairs of surgical gloves for medical missions in Sierra Leone. (These then went on to play a key role in stopping the Ebola outbreak in Africa.) Supporters were explained the immediate need for funds to fly in gloves before the government closed the airport. This generated the needed $135,000 in 72 hours. The more immediacy and the more precise the details, the closer supporters feel to the good they’re doing.

3. Promote your campaign everywhere

Getting the word out the moment your campaign page is live is mandatory. Putting a campaign banner ad at the top of your website and emailing everyone in your database is a good start. Also, using social media to ask your supporters to both give and share your campaign will contribute of the viral nature of emergency giving.

If you have a Google Ad Grant, now is an excellent time to use it. Many people will be searching for news about the disaster and want to know how they can help. An AdWords campaign can put you on top of news results in search.

4. Update supporters constantly on disaster news and campaign success

In an emergency, your nonprofit can find itself as the news source that your supporters look to for updates. This happened to DonorDrive client Ali Forney Center when their Manhattan shelter for homeless teens was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy.  They became a new story themselves and were best qualified to report on it. While supporters wanted to know how much was raised and where the money was going, they were also concerned about the fate of the teens who no longer had a place to stay, eat or get medical attention. Constant reporting on Facebook helped them raise $100,000 in the first 24 hours and $500,000 over six months.

5. Offer peer-to-peer fundraising so supporters can do more

Many of your supporters may want to help beyond giving a donation. Those emotionally or personally touched by disaster will want to tell the their story, share it with friends and have a bigger impact. These peer-to-peer campaigns can often have an overall impact that’s bigger than your initial disaster campaign. Offering supporters their own fundraising page can generate a substantial amount of awareness around your nonprofit's efforts to help, as well as generate more income.

6. Thank and keep communicating with your new donors

Many of those who give to your disaster campaign will be first-time donors. The disaster obviously moved them, so their level of interest in what you're doing will likely be high. Thank them promptly and also use the opportunity to keep the communication channels open. Offer to send them updates on your disaster campaign via email. This would also be a good time to encourage them to give monthly for a limited time of on an ongoing basis.

Disasters can occur across the world or across town. If you regularly respond with disaster campaigns, more and more supporters will look to your nonprofit as the go-to for giving when people need it most.