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Donor Relations When Disaster Strikes

Hurricane Irma.  Hurricane Harvey.  Fires in California.  Mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Top university officials making headlines – and not the ones you want for your institution.  These natural and manmade disasters seem to be everywhere you turn and they greatly affect our donors and constituents. Our donors are often look to us for answers and to do the right thing. At UC Davis we just survived massive wildfires that destroyed entire nearby neighborhoods, burned wineries and vineyards to the ground, and many of our alumni, parents, students, and friends were affected. It was hectic but thankfully we had a plan. A plan to not only connect and assist those affected but also to modify our plans to fundraise in these areas. Here are 4 steps we took to ensure our donors, and our community, knew we were there for them:

  1. We reached out to all of our managed donors and trustees to ensure their safety.  It took several attempts to reach them but we did and they were grateful to hear from us.

  2. Our Vet School sprang into action to assist animals abandoned and injured during the fires.  We opened up our hospital to house and care for their animals until their owners could come for them.

  3. We suspended all direct mail, email, phone and personal solicitation to the affected areas.  How inconsiderate would it have been to ask for their support of UC Davis at a time when they were uncertain of their own future? 

  4. When people called to ask how they could help we directed their support to several emergency funds.  My favorite is our fund started by students to assist students in emergency situations.

The fires are out and people are beginning to clean up and rebuild. We had a plan and a team in place to execute it. We didn’t do anything heroic – we just did the right thing at the right time. We were ready… are you?

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by DRG Group member, Angie Joens



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