Fundraising in an Emergency: How to Quickly Get Communications Out

There is no shortage of urgent and impactful issues in the U.S. and around the world, many overlapping at the same time. For nonprofits, these may impact not just your work and services, but also the necessity for additional funds or to make up for funding shortfalls.

Of course, your teams will immediately get to work, but you also need to be prepared to quickly reach out to your constituency with relevant messaging and to raise much-needed funds. It is possible to do this with sensitivity and urgency while remaining cost-effective. Below are some steps and case studies on reaching your donors and supporters as quickly as possible to make the ask.

What do I need to do to get a thoughtful, impactful fundraising appeal quickly into the hands of my donor base?

While email is the best way to quickly get out to your base with a targeted message, a coordinated integrated communications strategy will always be more impactful. This means coordinating your ask across email, mail, social media, as well as any advertising. Mail might take a little longer than email, but we have found it to be equally important – some donors may only be reachable by mail. Chances are you do not have email addresses for your entire donor base, but you will have their postal addresses. And with digital printing and other advances, you can still quickly move this out as well, going from concept to entering the mail stream in as little as a few days. 

The key thing to remember is all mail should be integrated with the messaging launched through emails, even if the mail will be hitting homes a week or so later. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. Move quickly but don’t rush your message. Be clear on the goal of what your organization is trying to accomplish and make sure you can clearly articulate this in any email or mailing. It’s better to wait an extra day or so if that means clarifying your message and response.
  2. Double check for sensitivity. Everyone experiences an emergency differently. Some people are directly impacted; others want to help as soon as possible. And still there are others who may want to help but, in the moment, do not have the financial capability. All fundraising communications need to be written with these different audiences in mind. You won’t know the exact circumstances of those opening your message, so while it is important to have strong urgency, you need to balance that with sensitivity to how different constituencies will be experiencing the emergency.
  3. Have an emergency template ready. Once you’ve mailed an emergency mailing, you can utilize that design moving forward as a template, updating only with relevant copy and images. This will cut down significantly on any design time so you can concentrate on your messaging.
  4. Have an action team in place to quickly secure copy approval. When disaster strikes, it doesn’t mean you can throw your internal clearance process out the window. In fact, it makes those internal checkpoints more important. Designate a group of people to step in and manage emergency response situations, so you can quickly move your copy from conception to launch.
  5. Communicate constantly. This includes internally and with your agency. The nature of emergencies is that things are changing constantly. Make sure you stay up to date with all internal messaging and share with your agency as quickly as possible. Even small changes in messaging are important – more information is always better.
  6. Be thankful. Part of putting together your asks should be putting together the thank you letters and accompanying acknowledgments. Once you have your mail and email pieces written and ready to launch, make sure you continue the process with thoughtful and timely thank yous to all of your donors, on and offline.  

Below are samples of two recent mailings that went out addressing the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and events surrounding police brutality and the need for racial justice.

Case Studies

National Urban League: “Let us all be heard” — Written and Designed in 24 hours

In response to the ongoing killings of unarmed African Americans, the National Urban League needed to quickly get in the mail with a message of hope and action. This was accomplished with National Urban League and Faircom NY teams working in concert to hone in on accurate and compelling messaging and obtain quick approvals.

Concern Worldwide: “Emergency Supplies Needed” — Written and designed in 3 days

Concern Worldwide has been addressing the pandemic since its onset, but they wanted to clearly convey the steps they were taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 within some of the poorest regions in the world, where the impact of the virus has been delayed. They also had an urgent match opportunity that would allow donors to triple their impact. Once they had their messaging clarified, we quickly moved to put a mail piece together for expedited mailing.

As always, we are here to help. You can contact us at any time.