Natural disasters are becoming commonplace.

Consider the devastation we've seen in just the last 6 weeks:

Wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.

Rains triggering massive flooding in the Midwest and Southeastern U.S.

Record flooding, and nearly 1 million people evacuated in Southern Japan.

More than 200 dead from monsoon flooding in India.

More flooding and landslides in China, Myanmar, and across South Asia. Hundreds still missing or feared dead.

This is not to make light of Hurricane Dorian. It's already been declared the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year. The destruction and devastation could be great.

So what can your nonprofit do, to minimize any fundraising fallout that could result from Dorian? How do you finish 2019 strong?


This is an insightful post from Roger Craver at the Agitator. He shares the impact he's seen on fundraising, following major storms and natural disasters.

You'll find several topics here, including:

  • things to do if your nonprofit is affected by the storm or its aftermath.
  • considerations for disaster fundraisers (and non-disaster fundraisers alike)
  • possible effects on year-end giving

A couple of key takeaways from the Agitator post:

Expect online giving to surge, at least for a few days after the disaster.

Roger Craver says, "Disaster giving online follows a 'fast but fleeting' pattern. The 'impulse effect' spikes and drops within a short, 2- to 6-day timeframe after a major disaster.

Disasters don't appear to drastically depress giving in other areas, which is good news for your year-end giving.

Craver says, "As a general rule the effects of a disaster on non-disaster fundraising are temporary and minimal." And the data supports this.

In fact, consider this. There was an outpouring of support after Hurricane Katrina (2005), Superstorm Sandy (2012), Hurricane Harvey (2017) and Hurricane Michael (2018). In each of these years, charitable giving in the U.S. greatly exceeded the previous year's total giving. Not just because of disaster giving, but in spite of it.


Here's a post I wrote 2 years ago, after Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas and Louisiana.

The date and states are different, but the key messages stay the same.

People don't stop giving to your nonprofit, just because they give to help after a disaster.

As previously stated, giving to a disaster doesn't tend to affect overall household giving.

The research suggests that it's lots and lots of small gifts that make up the really big totals we see and hear in the news.

In fact, the typical gift was about $50 per household, after events like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. It's enough individual donors that it adds up collectively. But it's typically not a large enough amount to impact individual household giving.

Why do people keep giving? (and giving, and giving...)

Perhaps Jerry Panas said it best: "Givers give."

As humans, we're hardwired to help. Making a donation - whether to a disaster relief organization or a youth mentoring program or a clean water program - is one way to "help" a cause we care about.

Beyond that, giving makes us feel good - literally. Your body releases little shot of dopamine to the pleasure center of your brain every time you give.

We also know that people will feel good about giving to your organization again when you give your donors what they want.

For instance, you need to thank your donors well. (Here are 3 ways to do it better and here are some examples of great letters.)

Second, you need to tell your donors how their gift was used and the impact of their gift before asking them to give again.

Most importantly, most donors need to be asked before they will give. It's as simple as that. Don't ask, don't get.


Be aware that many of your current donors will support both national and international relief efforts this year.

That doesn't mean they won't give to you - but it doesn't mean they will, either.

So, take time now and over the next few months to thank your current donors. Show some #donorlove. Report back on all the ways their last donation helped.

And take a lesson from the disaster fundraising playbook. It works because of the urgency. Because there's a clear, immediate, and pressing need.

So, when you appeal to your donors, make them an offer - a clear and compelling reason to support your nonprofit. This year.

Lastly, remember that most donors need to be asked before they will give.

Don't believe the myth of donor fatigue. It's okay to ask your donors for support this year.

Let the storm pass, then start making plans for your best year-end fundraising ever.


Here's a link to a post I wrote about " How To Help After a Disaster."

You'll find specific suggestions for how to help, whether you're in or near an affected area or in another part of the country.

Thank you. For all you do. As nonprofit professional and a caring, compassionate citizen.

Photo credit(s): Pixabay

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