Organizing information about people is one of the most challenging parts of disaster-related information management.
Fundraising for disasters often begins immediately after they strike. The photos, video and narratives that emerge from the disaster compels a wide variety of people to give in a wide variety of ways.
- give immediately through their cell phone or a website.
- research various disaster relief groups and give to the group they find most compelling.
- give funds that will be spent in a specific way, such as through project-based fundraising or via gift registries.
It's important to have a process for engaging with all your group's donors because someone who has given once to your group is many many times more likely to give again than someone who has not.
Converting someone into a donor is a difficult challenge that, unfortunately, goes beyond doing amazing work that everyone wants to support. It requires building lists of potential donors, documenting your work, inviting people to give, and convincing them that the time to give is now!
During and after a disaster, relief providers need good information about where to refer victims for "human services" assistance such as homeless shelters, mental health counselling, food pantries, insurance advice and so much more. Unlike local business information, which was made readily available via the internet over a decade ago, “human service” information is much more difficult to find - even if you're a nonprofit organizastion. This is especially true in New York City, which doesn't have a nonprofit-run 211 system like most other places in the USA.
This creates a problem for relief providers who want to ensure victims get high quality information and can access critical services—and also makes it difficult for relief communites to create their own resource directories.
If a relief group or network has a public phone number or email address, it’s likely that it will be flooded with inquiries from a wide variety of people, including volunteers who want to help out, high-dollar donors that want to give money, people who need emergency assistance, people who have general questions, the press/media and more. Often the person who receives a request is not the same person who can fulfill it, so people pass requests from one to another, and hope that the right person receives the information and can act upon it. Without a way to track these requests, all people can do is cross their fingers and trust in the universe to take care of things—usually leading to many new problems.
Disasters are a huge communication challenge. Often the person who receives a request for something is not the same person who can fulfill it. This requires people to pass requests on to others, and if they don't specifically know who can fulfill that request, they may pass it on to many people and hope that the right person receives the information and can act upon it. This is a significant problem for meduim sized organization, but a massive one for larger organizations and networks. And since people often don’t take responsibility for following up with the contacts they pass on to others, accountability suffers, the relief group’s reputation can suffer, and critical information and opportunities to help people in need get lost.