Flexibility Key to Making an Impact during Natural Disaster

Natural disasters are times that often create a heightened sense of urgency from nonprofits to raise awareness around relief and other humanitarian efforts associated with areas impacted. Over the last weekend, Hurricane Matthew swept through the Western Atlantic, including parts of the southeastern United States, having earlier hit several areas of the Caribbean. The Category Five Atlantic hurricane caused major flooding, destruction to homes and loss of life, and the devastation will be felt well into this week and beyond. For nonprofits already focused on humanitarian efforts, natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew create an immediate demand for outreach and other marketing tactics that garner support for communities impacted. Even nonprofits not rooted in a humanitarian mission often find ways to temporarily pause their usual messaging and outreach, and instead shift the focus to driving donations for natural disaster victims.

While weather-tracking capabilities allow businesses and communities to prepare for the impact of a storm, it’s difficult to determine the exact scale of that impact, and the disruption it will ultimately cause. For this reason, it’s critical that nonprofit marketers, in particular, stay nimble in order to prepare for quick changes in strategy, and pause (or decrease) the flow of content around other campaigns. In fact, many organizations spring into action right away in anticipation of the influx of donors looking to offer their support for hurricane victims. Your social, email and paid search strategies will need to reflect up-to-date and accurate information, as well as a clear call-to-action across donation and engagement properties. For direct mail marketers, this may be a time to hold back mailers sent to the impacted areas, and boost relief-related mailers to other parts of the country.

Take a look at these additional tips for ensuring a strong and positive tone through natural disaster, as well as how to remain strategically savvy for both relief-focused and other marketing efforts:

  1. Keep an eye on USPS Service Disruption Alerts:

In the case of Hurricane Matthew, several USPS offices were closed or had limited service over the weekend, across the states of Florida, Georgia, North Caroline and South Carolina. As flooded areas clear up, areas that are recovering from the impact are beginning to re-open, per the official USPS Service Alerts. If you are planning to mail, relief-oriented or not, it’s important to check the service status for zips on your list, and omit any “closed/suspended” or “partial/limited” zip codes. During any natural disaster, mail will begin to stack up, making it difficult for your mailers to reach your prospect or donors at all, let alone on time.

  1. Boost humanitarian messaging and fundraising efforts:

With limited or closed service areas in mind, efforts should be shifted to other parts of the country not directly impacted by the weather. It’s likely that the media will continue to cover Hurricane Matthew over the next several weeks, particularly the devastation it has caused to Haiti and other areas of the Caribbean. Many regular and first-time givers will expect to hear from nonprofits about fundraising efforts, perhaps even more so during these next critical weeks following the storm. You may consider increasing your mailers and marketing across other channels to amplify the message. While it may mean putting other campaigns on hold temporarily, there’s a chance you’ll miss out making important connections if you don’t focus on hurricane relief.

  1. Maintain online visibility to engage your constituents:

When engaging communities that may experience the destruction of natural disaster in their own backyards, there is an opportunity for nonprofits to act as a reliable source of information and guidance for those looking to help rebuild. Maintain consistent online and mobile accessible information to areas surrounding the impact, focused on how to support the relief efforts for those most heavily affected. For organizations that become directly involved in the pre, during and post phases of a storm – for instance, ensuring shelter pets are out of harm’s way, or providing adequate food supply to people in need – you may consider sending email and social media communications that provide additional info around volunteering or donating. Tactics like these are good ways to create a sense of connectedness across communities, bringing them together during difficult times. Sensitivity is crucial in these scenarios, however, so it’s important to remember to suppress marketing efforts to areas directly impacted.

  1. Nurture new relationships post relief efforts:

When a first-time donor gives towards natural disaster relief efforts, it’s important to get that individual into your database immediately, and begin to further cultivate the relationship. Beyond a thank-you email or message after the initial donation is made, plan a more general outreach strategy to introduce that person to your organization and educate them about your message. There’s a chance that he or she simply donated to the first organization at the top of the results page for “Hurricane Relief”; however there’s also a chance that person was particularly compelled by the positive tone, engaging creative or overall approach your organization implemented for increasing awareness. Stay sensitive to the current issue at hand, but also take this as an opportunity to make a lasting connection that will encourage future giving.

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