In this morning’s note to my weekly Fundraising Kick coaching email subscribers, I offered two ways to respond to a tragedy like the devastation people are experiencing in Texas because of Hurricane Harvey. This message is so timely, I am sharing it here as well.

If you turn on any news channel, you have undoubtedly heard of Harvey that tropical storm and hurricane that, even as I write this, is still devastating parts of Texas.

Disasters like this pull on our hearts and pull on the hearts of our donors. We all make donations to support those affected.

And if your nonprofit isn’t in an affected area, disasters like this can make it challenging to think about fundraising for your own institution.

Having worked in nonprofits through many disasters – weather, economic, and even terrorist – I’ve had to help nonprofit leaders figure out how to reconcile their desire to help with their need to fund their own organization. Here I’ll share two.

2 Approaches to Fundraising in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

As nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals, if you live outside the affected areas or outside nonprofits providing assistance here are a couple approaches you can take in your fundraising efforts this week.

  1. Pause fundraising
    One response is to simply pause fundraising. I think this is the most common response I’ve seen. It simply seems the right thing to do. It seems respectful and considerate.

    The one big mistake I see people make with this approach is to equate “pausing fundraising” with ceasing all communications. I strongly urge against that.

    You should definitely check your upcoming communications and social media posts to see if they’ll appear tone deaf to your audience. But do not stop talking to your supporters. Your cause is still worthy of
    philanthropic support. The “need” you exist to fix isn’t going to go away, so neither should you.

    In your pausing solicitations, you may choose to devote your major gift calls to expressing your gratitude. Call donors and say “thank you.” You may even consider sending a postcard to supporters thanking them for their support of your mission and encouraging them to support one of the groups your own organization is making donations to.

    Hitting the pause button can be a reasonable approach to fundraising in the wake of disasters.

  2. Fundraising care-fully
    If your organization still needs the funds that you were planning on soliciting this week, you still need to get out there and raise those funds.

    But this week as you make your major gift contacts, listen with your heart even more than you normally do. Even if you’re far from Texas, people may have family there. Or may be hurting from the awful stories they’re hearing in the news.

    Hold that space with your donor. Be a safe person to help them start processing their grief and anguish with.

    Be human. Be full of care.

    And still ask. You might modify your ask amount. Or you might see perils of your mission and things the donor has said. But your cause is worthy of the funding.

A Third Way?

Of course, a third way is to do both – pause with some prospects and ask carefully with others.

It’s times like these that we get to see the best in each other. And as nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, we get a front row seat to that beauty and generosity.

What about you? How do you reconcile fundraising in the face of disasters? Tell us in the comments. And if you want the weekly Fundraising Kick coaching emails, sign up at

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