As Hurricane Harvey continues to devastate the proud citizens of Houston and the Gulf Coast, our thoughts are with those who face difficult days, weeks, and months ahead. Looking back on history, we know that natural disasters bring us closer together and show our resilient spirit.

Houston is renowned for helping others in Texas and throughout America in the wake of major disasters; most notably, welcoming tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors. In 2005, when people were forced out of their homes, Houstonians stepped up to provide shelter and comfort. The efforts we see now from these citizens inspire us all.

Many friends have asked CCS for advice on their fundraising efforts. We know these events shine a light on the vital roles that nonprofits serve in our communities. These strategies are provided to help your organization connect with loyal supporters in the face of relief efforts:

  1. Acknowledge the Tragedy – This tragedy calls for resolve, sincerity, and action. Consider posting a message on your website or sending a letter to your employees, volunteers, and donors emphasizing the importance of taking actionable steps to help those in need. Use your social media channels to broadcast your message to the widest possible audience.
  1. Reaffirm Your Mission – Helping those in need during difficult times is the purpose of all nonprofits. Reminding constituents of your mission will help them focus on an element of relief. As an example, the Corporation for National and Community Service recently sent an email to all AmeriCorps and Peace Corps volunteer alumni asking for individuals who are skilled in building to consider lending a hand.
  1. Convey Your CommitmentLet volunteers and donors know how your organization is supporting relief efforts. Encouraging them to follow your lead can be a quick way to make an impact. Often, in the face of devastation, people do not know how they can make a difference. Your staff could collect needed goods through a food drive, or organize a group of volunteers for direct aid. Be clear about your organization’s leadership and engagement.
  1. Apply Lessons into Your Organization – Along with any major disaster comes an inspiring outpouring of public support from all 50 states. Celebrity major gifts and challenges, as well as large corporate grants, add to this collective culture of “all hands on deck.” Organizational budgets however, especially for smaller local groups, are typically not equipped to handle the influx of financial resources for a disaster on Harvey’s scale. If your organization is not impacted by Harvey, it should still serve as a reminder to develop a long-term strategic plan to diversify your revenue streams with fundraising programs that aim to ease the financial burden of events like Harvey. Should a tragedy impact your organization or community, it’s best to be prepared so that your primary concern can be to help those in need.

About the Author

CCS is a strategic fundraising firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. For seven decades, the firm has empowered many of the world’s greatest organizations to advance some of the most important causes in history. CCS plans, manages, and implements programs that achieve fundraising goals and mission impact.