What Now? Actions for Nonprofits in Disaster-Affected Communities

Guest Series with Expert Roger Craver

About Roger:
From his first days, 45 years ago as a co-founder of Common Cause and other major organizations, to his current role as a board member for the ACLU and national fundraising expert advisor, Roger’s strategic mind and optimistic nature have supported organizers nationally and abroad. His close observation of nonprofits operating in disaster-affected communities gives him the perspective we need now in Santa Barbara to respond, rebuild, and build resilience.

We started the conversation reflecting on Andy Robinson’s recent visit to Ventura to talk about fundraising after a natural disaster. Roger echoed Andy’s suggestion:

During these moments, there is a strong desire to hunker down and wait for the storm to blow over. This is exactly the wrong response. In times of crisis (or even perceived crisis), your job is to strengthen your ties to you donors – to reinforce your shared values, and to reassure them about the continuity of your work.”

… and added “Roger’s 6 commandments” in answer to the question, “What should we do now, after the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flows, that we probably should have been doing anyway?”

(Note: these commandments aren’t just for agencies working on the frontlines of recovery. Roger’s strong suggestion is that each of us, from arts to education, has a role as our community rebuilds. The bottom line? Let them know that you’re still here, and your work matters now more than ever.)

1. Share the facts immediately with your donors.

Your donors want to know exactly what is going on. They want to know what your program people are seeing – out there in the disaster areas.
Give them specifics of people impacted, extent of damage, etc.
Help them feel the danger, the turmoil of the real situation.

2. Give donors frequent updates from the field.

Your donors want to hear on the ground reports – repeatedly.
We all worry about what to say to our donors, and how to contact them often.  Well, here is a perfect opportunity.
You can make your donors feel like insiders.
Remember your donors love you and your work – so they want to know all this!

3. Be specific about what you are doing for the recovery effort.

Your donors want to know exactly what your organization is doing.
Are you cleaning up, serving meals, caring for lost animals, helping the homeless, providing entertainment, convening the community?
Be very specific about the numbers of people you are mobilizing, and how you are helping people.

4. Ask donors for generous gifts to fund specific initiatives if possible.

This is a terrific time to be asking. Donors really expect you to be asking at this point.
They want to know what you need, how much you need and what you need it for.
If you are not asking right now, your donors will be wondering why. Don’t hold back.

5. Call major donors personally.

By all means be in touch with your major donors. They love you. They feel like they are in partnership with you. They want to help you.
And they expect you to be asking for what you need.

6. Stay accountable.

Never, ever, just take the money and run. Your donors deserve updates over time.
Be completely, completely transparent about how the money has been spent, or will be spent.Here’s your chance to build trust, credibility and a closer relationship with your donors — or you can sow the seeds of mistrust and lose them forever.

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