In the last three months, our country has felt the devastating effects of three of the strongest hurricanes with record-breaking flooding and power outages, one of the biggest wildfires and the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Disaster relief campaigns are in full swing to rebuild Houston, Puerto Rico, parts of Florida and northern California and to support the Route 91 Festival victims and their families.
Disaster Relief campaigns raise millions of dollars in a matter of weeks. Here are two successful public relations tactics used in ongoing efforts that can be replicated for future natural disaster-free fundraising initiatives.
1. Find a celebrity ambassador with an organic passion for the cause and connections to other influencers.
Houston Texans defensive J.J. Watt’s Hurricane Harvey fundraiser started with a social media video plea to help him raise $200,000 to help rebuild the city of Houston. He made the initial $100,000 donation to his crowdfunding campaign hosted on Caring.com. Watt’s peers in the sports and entertainment industries, including Tom Brady, Drake and Ellen DeGeneres, followed suit making sizable donations to the cause. Corporations and franchises, including Walmart, H-E-B and the Tennessee Titans, provided financial and in-kind donations. Watt’s rallied his teammates to load semi-trucks and deliver supplies on the ground to shelters. Individuals nationwide were inspired by Watts and his famous friends and teammates to donate their time and resources.
Throughout the campaign, Watt’s posted photos and videos to thank supporters. He reassured donors that their money will go directly to relief aid and no overhead costs. In less than three weeks, more than 200,000 donors collectively raised $37 million. Watts is credited with helping to build a Hurricane Harvey relief movement. He is now meeting with organizations to ensure that funds raised go directly to help the victims.
2. Establish your infrastructure by building brand recognition and developing action plans.
Before the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department made a statement calling upon residents to donate blood to the more than 500 people wounded in the deadly Las Vegas massacre, the American Red Cross sprang into action. The organization quickly provided hundreds of additional blood products to Las Vegas area hospitals, opened a call center and partnered with government officials to hand deliver meals to survivors and their families. In addition, the Southern Nevada Red Cross helped to establish a family assistance center and sent teams of staff members and volunteers to homes and vigils to provide emotional support for all affected. Concert-goers were also invited to the assistance center for counseling and to retrieve their belongings.
Founded in 1881, the American Red Cross supplies approximately 40 percent of the nation’s blood and provides national and international lifesaving training and relief. With nearly 600 local chapters across the country, the nonprofit strategically positions supplies in locations where transportation and communications have been interrupted by natural disasters and actively recruits staff members and volunteers to help with such efforts. In addition, the organization leads local and national fundraising campaigns and blood drives year-round. The goal is to create an infrastructure that will help to control time and financial costs and enable the organization to deliver supplies to victims within 24 hours of being delivered to vendors during an emergency.
When faced with tragedy, it’s heartwarming to see so many Americans band together to help others in need. A lot can be learned from the success of Disaster Relief campaigns