Let's Raise Some Money
Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

How To Ask For Money In The Wake Of Tragedy When You Aren’t Asking For The Money For The Tragedy

June 21st, 2016 by Karen Climer

Let’s talk about fundraising in the face of disaster. Whenever there is a disaster, tons of money flows that way, meaning there is not as much left for other causes. How do you handle that?  This is particularly relevant from where I am in Orlando, Florida.

The worst thing you can do is pretend it didn’t happen. On June 12 in Orlando, we woke up to learn that the largest mass shooting in America just happened right here. That’s all anyone talked about for several days. Just a few days later, I received an email from a local health-related children’s nonprofit saying, “Please donate to us to honor your father on Father’s Day.” I wish I hadn’t deleted the email, so I could show it to you. It seemed like the most insensitive message on the planet.

Am I saying that when there is a disaster, you have to drop all of your fundraising? No. But I am saying that you have to be mindful of the disaster. I remember a letter I received a month after September 11, 2001 from a crisis pregnancy center. The letter had a Johnson box* that said, “After our national tragedy, even more people are defining the quality of life not by the size of their houses or the newness of their cars, but by how the grownups look out for the children.” This was great. It addresses that we, as a country, just experienced a great tragedy, but didn’t dwell on it. It was even better that it tied the tragedy back to the pregnancy center (…how the grownups look out for the children).

So back to my original email example, I wish that organization had had a message that said, “Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of fathers. Many just lost their fathers. Others just lost their sons. Please consider honoring your father, but donating to us.”

Don’t dwell on the tragedy, but don’t ignore it either. Also, find a way to connect the tragedy to your mission.


*A message at the top of a direct mail that contains the key message of the letter. Sometimes, it is in an actual box, but it doesn’t have to be. People might not read the letter, but they will read a Johnson box.

Posted in Asking

3 Responses

  1. Becky Farmerie

    Thank you for your constructive advice on how to effectively fund-raise under these challenges. So tragic and sad we have to discuss this topic … but we do need to be educated on how to be prepared.

  2. Mark E. Major

    I have subscribed to your blog for 3 or so years. Though I may not read them as soon as I get the email, I NEVER delete them, and (eventually) always enjoy your insight. I’m long overdue in offering my thanks.

  3. Karen Climer

    Thank you so much for reading and especially for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoy it (even if it isn’t always right away). I haven’t been very good about writing lately, but I’m going to try to get back into a regular routine. Thanks again.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.