Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fundraising and Haiti

I was all prepared to post my Happy New Year/Fundraising in 2010 thoughts when the massive earthquake in Haiti hit on Tuesday. That post can wait; time to focus on more important matters. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of our entire staff, are with the people of Haiti. The death toll is expected to be staggering and hard to forget, yet it remains the stories of survivors and the possibility of hope that stick with me the most. I’ve been riveted to the screen, reading and watching all sorts of amazing, as well as heartbreaking, news develop.

Like many of you, I’ve been so pleased to see the extraordinary responses to the earthquake from people around the world. AFP will be making a contribution to relief efforts, and we’re encouraging members to do the same. We’ve put together a small list of organizations to which people can give, and if your organization isn’t there, please email us ( and we’ll post it.

We’ve also been asked by a few members for fundraising advice and guidance with regards to disasters and other events. While many organizations involved in relief efforts are well-versed and prepared for such an event, there is always a need for new ideas from experienced colleagues. If you have any advice, thoughts and experiences you’d like to share with our members, please send them to We’re putting together a toolkit, news blog and other information about the Haitian relief efforts, so be sure to check this special section of our website. We’ve also distributed a press release encouraging people to give and providing advice on wise giving and avoiding fraudulent organizations.

AFP has been asked a lot over the past couple of days about the overall impact of these types of relief efforts on overall giving. Are we going to see a lot of new donors getting involved with philanthropy? Will there be an overall increase in giving because of the Haitian relief efforts?

My answer is probably not. Even after 9/11, we didn’t see any bump in overall giving for 2001. The overall economy is so large of a factor in the level of giving that most disasters, even major ones, are just a small blip on that map.

But these types of events can act as catalysts for changing how people give and introducing them to new methods of giving. After 9/11, website giving grew phenomenally as many people made contributions online for the first time and got used to it. This time, with Haitian relief efforts, it may well be text giving via cell phones that comes of age. We are already seeing a sharp increase in these kinds of texting contributions. When even the U.S. federal government offers a way to support relief efforts via texting, you know something has become popular. It will be interesting to see final giving numbers from these efforts.

Fundraising always has to shine during the most difficult of times. To all fundraisers who are working on disaster relief efforts, my deepest thanks and appreciation for the work you do. I know it’s challenging now, but your efforts are making a difference, and all of us at AFP applaud you.

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