Will Your Fall Appeal Get Hit by a Hurricane?

Will Your Fall Appeal Get Hit by a Hurricane?


By David Allen, Development for Conservation

 Last year’s fundraising appeal challenges had names: Trump and Clinton. We watched as money poured into not only the presidential race, but lots of House and Senate races as well. And at least prior to November 8, we wondered how the election would affect year-end fundraising.

Were donors going to keep giving to us also?

On November 9, we started worrying about how the election results might affect fundraising. Planned Parenthood received 80,000 donations in the three days following the election. ACLU raised more than $24 million online. Meals on Wheels and Sierra Club weren’t far behind.

Were donors going to keep giving to us also?

Giving USA’s numbers have been released for 2016, and for the most part, they seem encouraging. And the evidence seems to be Yes – the election did not hurt fall fundraising.

  • Record-setting giving overall – north of $390 Billion
  • Environment up big, though still stuck at about 3% of the total
  • Fewer dollars from mega-gifts and bequests, while many more mid-level donors more than made up the difference (See A Sweet Spot)
  • And all seven broad categories of recipients increased, meaning that the election campaigns and results did not depress giving to other sectors

This year, we have different challenges – named Harvey, Irma, Lee, and Marie. (At this writing, Marie has just been upgraded to a Category 5 Hurricane and headed for the eastern seaboard.) Houston, the Keys, Miami, and Jacksonville are still bailing and digging out. And meanwhile, money is pouring in.

Will donors keep giving to us also? Will these storms affect our fall fundraising?

My sense is that it will, but mostly on a very local level. Houston and Florida charitable giving will focus on relief efforts. But elsewhere, it shouldn’t have a big negative impact.

Having said that, however, if you can connect what you are doing with one of these catastrophic events, it could help your fundraising results.

I loved Bob Stokes’ (President, Galveston Bay Foundation) email message sent within days of Harvey swamping Houston (I have shortened it somewhat here):


Although the primary response of our community should and will be on helping people in need, we wanted to let you know that we are also working to assess the damage the storm has wrought to Galveston Bay. We know the storm has pumped millions of gallons of dirty stormwater into the Bay. That stormwater includes untreated sewage and oil and gas from an untold number of small spills.

Although Harvey has presented us with a new set of challenges, it has also reaffirmed the importance of our efforts to restore more natural wetlands and repair natural barriers so we can improve the resilience of our Bay to protect us from severe weather events in the future.

Like so many others in and around Texas, we have our work cut out for us and we need your support more than ever to accomplish our goals. I ask you to join me today and pledge your commitment to the importance of our hurricane response and to our efforts to preserve and protect Galveston Bay for generations to come.


Acknowledge the tragedy and the priorities that human needs will always present. But bring it back to the conservation mission and tangible things everyone can do to help.

Most people are overwhelmed by the magnitude of these issues and problems, not to mention shell-shocked by what’s going on in Washington. They are feeling buffeted by forces much larger than they are.

What could I possibly do? How could I possibly make a difference?

Projects close to home that have tangible results can help. When results are close and visible, donors feel like they are having some impact in a world where many problems are much bigger.

  • Buying land feels permanent. Let your members know about year-end acquisitions and credit them for supporting the underlying organization that made it happen.
  • Neighborhoods in New York that had community gardens handled the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy much more efficiently than those without. Find a way to link your work to community gardens and other visible forms of green infrastructure.
  • Talk about local effects of Global Warming. Visibly include global warming discussions in your conservation planning and other programming.
  • Even clearing buckthorn from a tangled hillside can show visible progress. Make sure you get before and after pictures!



Local and Tangible.

It feels good. Connect to that.

And it will help drive donations this fall.





Photo by Flo Dahm courtesy of Stocksnap.io.

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