Rapid-Response Fundraising for Haiti and Afghanistan: Top 5 Takeaways

Maureen McNally

Chief Growth Officer

As yet another earthquake devastated Haiti and the end of the American presence in Afghanistan dominated global headlines, our nonprofit partners found themselves challenged by rapidly changing needs and complex dynamics – and we mobilized en masse to help them rise to the occasion.

Over the past weeks’ response, we saw some best practices hold true and some new strategies and tactics emerge. While our world is tough to predict, there’s one thing that’s almost certainly true: The need you meet for people throughout the world, the often urgent need, will remain. And so, as the year unfolds, as weather events and a chaotic climate bring challenges, we wanted to share some takeaways:

  • Be fast. You don’t have to have the perfect message or photos from the ground in-market as events you respond to top headlines and news segments. You can succeed by being out there, sharing what you value and the truth that you help. As long as you show up, you can evolve and optimize as data and stories from the ground allow it. This is true over email and paid ads. If you’re fast and demonstrate you’re responding with urgency and seriousness, you can fill in details in subsequent outreach.
  • Be creative. Once you’ve acted quickly, you should consider how you can leverage creative content to break through and command attention. We worked with one organization on a response to the Haitian earthquake that included a forward of a message from the major earthquake that struck in 2010. This email made visceral the extent to which Haiti and the Haitian people have suffered repeat disasters. 
  • Get your search terms right. For one organization responding to the need in Haiti, we captured nearly 70% of search impressions by being first out of the gate. This success was owed to having a strategy in place and ready in anticipation that a need would arise in one of this organization’s priority countries. This planning made the difference in tens of thousands of dollars of revenue.  
  • Know your supporters. When you’re successfully responding to a timely moment, it’s important to be decisive in identifying where you can make the most of opportunities. We’ve developed an in-house lead-generation platform, AdvantageAI. For one partner responding to Haiti, we saw that the AdvantageAI cohort performs, over email, 50% better than the known donor cohort. We’ll pause here for emphasis. We saw an acquisition list perform 50% better than known donors. By stepping back to do this analysis, we saw that we could make subsequent investments in growth via AdvantageAI, an insight that’ll be hugely consequential for this nonprofit’s success in future response moments and year’s end.
  • Protect your credibility. While the above examples revolved around Haiti, we also helped a military-support organization respond to the news the U.S. was withdrawing from Afghanistan. We knew their response would need to reflect the emotional investment of its supporters, the personal pain they experienced watching conditions in Afghanistan deteriorate. Because we knew their audience – who they were, what they value – we ensured our content reflected those values back to them, when it was most important.

As the world turns, so too do effective digital communications. We’re always learning and eager to share those learnings with others working to share stories, build support and make a difference.