Friday, January 22, 2010

How Haiti will impact fundraising forever

I believe that the earthquake in Haiti will have a profound and lasting impact in the emergency management world--similar to 9/11 and Katrina. One way will be how money is raised to support a major disaster. As of yesterday according to NPR Americans had given $275 million toward Haiti relief. According to this research just released by KRC Research, almost half of Americans, 45%, have contributed financially to Haiti relief. What is remarkable about this is the number who have contributed via text message.

My congratulations and appreciation goes to the American Red Cross. I'm not sure if they are the first to use this method but what they did and their remarkable success with this new method of fund raising I believe will change the landscape of fundraising not just for disaster relief but for any organization who raises funds. The Red Cross provided a simple short code, 90999, and if you simply text that $10 will be added to your phone bill. Simple, painless and remarkably effective. According to this story just out today, 2.6 million people texted the American Red Cross and contributed $26 million toward relief efforts. While the Red Cross has received over $150 million, this new method has brought a great many new contributors, ones who before had never contributed to the Red Cross and probably to any relief organization, into the fold.

There will be many lessons to come out of Haiti. Communication and its failings will no doubt be one of the main lessons, as it always is in any major disaster. As the KRC research shows, we are all paying attention, many very closely. Our hearts are heavy and we want to help. But we need to be told how to help. It is a critically important lesson to be learned by PIOs who may find themselves at the center of such a disaster. But what the Red Cross has done shows the effectiveness of embracing new methods and in doing so has changed fundraising forever.

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