No doubt you’ve heard about the huge role that social media and mobile giving has played in raising money for victims of the Haiti earthquake. By a week after the disaster, more than $220 million had been contributed to major U.S. relief groups, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Of that, $22 million was raised through the Red Cross’ $10 text-message campaign; millions more came in through other similar texting campaigns.
What are the lessons here for community-based nonprofits? As with Katrina and the tsunami, this massive outpouring of donations might have a short-term impact on some fundraising efforts. Most of the money raised for Haiti is comprising small donations from individuals and million-dollar corporate contributions, so a charitable event or direct-mail campaign in the next few weeks might be affected. But it’s unlikely that the Haiti relief effort will have an impact on your regular donors or on individuals being cultivated for major gifts, even in the current economy. Also, keep in mind that corporate philanthropy accounts for less than 5 percent of all charitable giving, and the global corporations giving to Haiti aren’t typically the ones helping smaller nonprofits.
As for whether you should depend more on online and mobile giving, remember that 24/7 coverage by traditional media still brought the most attention to the needs of Haiti. Offering the option of online giving is appropriate, but it is not the answer to your fundraising needs. Not to mention that if you want online donors to be repeat donors, they require the same cultivation as someone who gives you a check.
Finally, our nation’s rapid and compassionate response to this tragedy confirms that the U.S. remains the world’s most generous country. We should all be proud of that. Please give if you can and make sure it’s to a reputable charity.