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4 steps to organize a nonprofit emergency fundraiser

March 18, 2022
This image shows a group of young adult friends working at a food bank that organized an emergency fundraiser for their beneficiaries.

In the wake of a disaster, every second counts for your nonprofit organization to take action. While your main priority should always be to immediately respond to those who have been directly impacted by the disaster, it’s crucial to develop a solid plan for funding your organization’s disaster relief efforts and building the capacity to address future needs.

In order to maximize your nonprofit’s impact after a disaster, you’ll need to develop a detailed campaign plan. To help you hit the ground running with a successful campaign, we’ll take you through four effective steps for organizing an emergency fundraiser.

1. Prepare a communication plan for your emergency fundraiser

After an emergency crisis takes place, ensure that your organization is ready for action by nailing down a comprehensive communication plan for your fundraising campaign. Assess your current budget and resources, then follow these best practices for getting the word out:

  • Align staff and stakeholders on your priorities. Take the time to align your staff and other stakeholders on the goals and priorities of your emergency fundraiser. Assign or re-establish any responsibilities so that everyone knows how to contribute toward the campaign’s success. Share key talking points with all staff, so they’ll be prepared to discuss your fundraising efforts online and in-person.
  • Share your nonprofit’s story. As with any message you send out to readers, highlight your organization’s story, purpose, and impact. How has the disaster affected your beneficiaries? Share powerful and emotional narratives that convey the urgency of your fundraising efforts and call people to action.
  • Determine which communication channels to use. Reach out to your supporters and prospective donors through a variety of channels to get your message in front of as many people as possible. Use your donor management system to segment your audience based on their communication preferences and meet them on the platforms where they want to hear from you most. 
  • Leverage the media. Leverage any and all media connections. For example, before Hurricane Harvey hit, Texas Diaper Bank issued a timely press release with a wish list and request for support. Popular influencers in your community can also be helpful advocates for promoting your emergency fundraiser online.

Additionally, take the opportunity to update your voicemail and website to reflect your emergency fundraising efforts. Be sure to have your staff actively checking and responding to all inquiries, whether they’re in-person, on social media, or through email, to keep supporters as informed as possible about your campaign.

2. Create your emergency fundraising campaign

Once your nonprofit has solidified your communications plan, it’s time to move forward with the campaign itself. For your emergency fundraiser, you should design an integrated, multi-touch campaign with a special donation page for your organization’s disaster relief efforts. Utilize your fundraising software to track incoming gifts and send out thank-you acknowledgments once donations come pouring in.

To optimize your emergency fundraising results, consider the following tips:

  • Get your board involved. Your board members have valuable connections within the community that can be instrumental to your campaign’s success. Enlist your board to personally reach out to major donors and other stakeholders to solicit their support. Provide them with call scripts to guide and facilitate their efforts.
  • Leverage your stakeholders. Amplify your nonprofit’s voice and boost awareness of your emergency fundraiser by asking stakeholders such as dedicated volunteers, staff, and even beneficiaries to share information about your campaign with their personal networks.
  • Customize your website. Create a special banner on your nonprofit's website that drives people to your emergency campaign’s donation page in order to maximize its visibility to visitors.

As with any fundraising campaign, ensure that your organization has clear goals in place, as well as relevant metrics to evaluate success. Additionally, consider implementing a peer-to-peer campaign to empower your more dedicated supporters to take up fundraising efforts on your nonprofit’s behalf.

3. Consider corporate philanthropy options

During a time of crisis, other organizations will also be compelled to take action to support those affected. Magnify your emergency fundraising efforts by offering opportunities for corporations and local businesses to contribute to your nonprofit. For instance, consider:

  • Seeking corporate sponsors. Reach out to corporations with sponsorship programs that may be willing to offer financial or in-kind donations to support your emergency campaign. Take advantage of their existing networks to spread increased awareness of your fundraising efforts.
  • Encouraging matching gifts. Make the most of matching gifts by ensuring your prospective donors are aware that they may be eligible to have their donations matched by their employers. To facilitate this process, consider employing matching gift software that automates identifying matching gift opportunities.

Establishing productive nonprofit-corporate relationships is beneficial not just for your emergency fundraiser, but the long-term success of your organization as a whole. Once you’ve built these connections, keep your partnerships mutually-beneficial to ensure they last long into the future.

4. Report your emergency fundraiser’s impact

At the end of an impactful emergency campaign comes one of the most rewarding and crucial aspects of fundraising—sharing its results and impact. Send updates and follow-up communications to your stakeholders, making sure to:

  • Recognize your donors. Recognize the support you’ve received from the community and beyond on your nonprofit’s website and social media accounts. Incorporate brief quotations from key donors, allowing them to share their personal reasons for contributing to your organization’s efforts. Additionally, consider adding an honor roll onto your emergency fundraiser’s webpage to thank those who’ve contributed.
  • Include relevant data. As you report the results of your nonprofit emergency fundraiser, include data points that will help readers better understand the tangible impact of their gifts and your organization’s work. For instance, you might share the average gift size and number of new donors you’ve acquired during the campaign, as well as an example of what these new contributions helped you achieve.

Supporters, like your nonprofit, are driven by the thought of powering positive change in their communities. If you keep them informed on the impact of their contributions, they’ll feel fulfilled in their involvement and eager to remain engaged with your organization’s purpose.

Maximizing your post-disaster impact

An effective emergency fundraiser requires a well-designed plan and consistent communication in order to achieve the greatest impact after a disaster. Make use of the communication tools in your fundraising software to keep donors updated on your progress, your challenges, and campaign results. Open and transparent communication, especially during times of crisis, will keep donors motivated to maintain their ongoing support.

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