Much of my work over the last year has been in the world of retail, famous for being fast-moving, dynamic, immediately responsive to changes in market conditions. Not for retailers the gentle pace of fundraising, the measured diet of monthly gifts and quarterly updates.
Until, that is, there is an earthquake.
Little more than a dozen hours after the first shock hit Nepal, the first appeal arrived in my inbox. Through the weekend, charities and their agencies were at work, belying the slow moving stereotype.
Over the years I have found my way onto many a charity database, as a supporter, business partner or interested observer. Checking email and text messages in the two days since news broke from Nepal led me to an unscientific survey of emergency appeals:
UNICEF were first, the only organisation to make its appeal to me on the same day as the news broke, followed on Sunday by Christian Aid and British Red Cross (the latter by text message). Appeals from SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) and Tearfund arrived during Monday.
I make no claim that my survey is comprehensive: the fact that I did not hear from a charity does not suggest that they were not equally active, equally responsive to the need. But I was struck by what I found:
- Speed matters: it is possible to launch an appeal within 12 hours of the need arising, seven days a week: this is the new benchmark.
- A clear ask: UNICEF were very clear: “we urgently need you to send a gift of £35 to help the children of Nepal”. Others were less prescriptive, perhaps deliberately so: “give what you can”. Perhaps surprisingly, Christian Aid were more blunt: “donate today”. Some donation pages had gift amount prompts ranging from £10 to £115. No doubt prompt levels have been tried and tested and are different for different supporter bases, but the importance of a clear ask is indisputable.
- Make it meaningful: Tearfund and UNICEF made it very clear what each prompted amount could help them achieve, giving a clear sense of the tangible impact of each donation.
4. Once may not be enough: media planners know that they have to give their audience multiple opportunities to see their message in order for it to have the desired impact. UNICEF have adopted a similar approach, emailing two further and increasingly urgent messages in the 48 hours since their original appeal.
If this simple exercise has reminded us of some fundraising essentials, it does not detract from the most important point: organisations are doing vital work to respond to emergencies in Nepal and elsewhere, and they need our support to enable them to do so. They are playing their part: now it’s our turn