Impact of the Christchurch Earthquake on fundraising, donor behaviour and charity decision-making

A number of charities have made comment recently about concerns they have about the ability of their donors to give post the Christchurch Earthquake – and in looking to see what could be the possible impact on donor contributions I stumbled across What has the impact of the February Christchurch Earthquake been on fundraising, donor behaviour and charity decision-making? – a report from Xponential Philanthropy.

What was the not for profit fundraising sector’s experience post-earthquake? 

“In the beginning of May, Xponential Philanthropy conducted a simple electronic survey to determine the fundraising behaviour of the not for profit sector post-earthquake and to assess if there had been a significant impact. The survey was sent to members of the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand. Fifty four responses were received.

The survey results suggest 71% of the survey respondents made changes to their fundraising plans post-earthquake. The decisions to change fundraising plans were mainly prompted by the Fundraising Department, Board and Management. Donor views were not a major influence; only two responses cite donor feedback as a reason for changing plans.

Direct mail programmes and event based fundraising were the most affected, either by cancellation or postponement. 36.7% postponed their Direct Mail programme to existing donors, whilst 27.8% cancelled the programme altogether. 16.7% cancelled a Direct Mail to non-donors and 13.3% postponed theirs. Event based fundraising was the most affected with 38.9% cancelling and 26.7% postponing a planned event. Based on these changes, it was interesting to note the estimated impact on the annual income of charities. 15% stated that they did not anticipate any loss of income. 33% estimated that they would lose up to 5% of their annual income. 15.4% expect a reduction of 5% – 10% and 20.5% believe that their annual income will reduce by 10% – 20%.” 

An insight from the report is that “Donors don’t stop caring about causes that matter to them, even in the event of a disaster. Organisations are urged to continue to engage and communicate with their donors and supporters, telling them about the urgent needs of those they help and important services they provide in our communities … because donors still care.”

It’s important for charities to communicate with their donors, to let them know how important their support is – it’s also important that charities are transparent, that they show how and where funds are used, all of this will help ensure supporters continue to support.

Download the report “Impact of Christchurch Earthquake on NZ Charities” for more insight.




Could charities be in for a hard time?


With so many natural disasters and humanitarian relief needs around the world, and so many people, organisations and businesses being called on to help – either financially, skills or an increase in the needs for volunteers; could some charities find themselves in a deficit situation? 

It has to be asked, and by deficit – yes, I am saying financially, but there’s so many other ways that a charity could “miss out” – even goods in kinds could become scarce, volunteers may not join as they see other “things” that needs their help. 

Are we prepared for this in the charity sector? Can we even prepare for it; in Ongoing Support is Needed I touch on how organisations need to stay in contact with their supporters, and it’s likely to become even more vital now that the attention of world is turning to another natural disaster one that we will all want and need to help with. 

How can charities or non-profits prepare for the fall out when attention moves from one ‘cause’ to another? 

A few things I see as being necessary to stay ‘afloat’ is in planning, organisations need to sit down and work out how they can do things, where they can make changes and more. 

A few things that could be looked at 

Educate donors on how they can give 

Donors need to know why they give, what the benefits to the recipients are. Organisations, now, more than ever have to talk about what they do, where the money goes and how donors contribution make a difference. 

This however needs to be factually rather than pull at the heart strings of donors. Appeals used to seem to pull at the heartstrings of donors, but they’re wary of them now and want facts. 

Payroll giving 

Payroll giving isn’t something new, it has been around a long time. Some countries have only recently enacted legislation to allow it. 

Organisations, as part of their campaign process should be speaking with companies and their employees about the benefits of payroll giving. 

It will take time, but that time needs to be invested to help ensure the ongoing success of the organisation. 

Join forces 

Yes, I do suggest joining forces. There a numerous organisations out there doing identical or very similar things. Aren’t they simply like two clothing stores with similar merchandise and similar markets – competing against each other, whereas a united ‘brand’ would have the potential to do more and potentially better? 

How many organisations do we know of in our country, county, borough doing the same thing? Take a look at how many are working in the cancer field, or those offering assistance to at risk youth. 

I know of at least three organisations who struggle to deliver what they’re established to do, yet if the joined forces they’d have more chance. 

Legislate to put a cap on fees charged by professional fundraisers 

In some situations groups working in the community could take up the batten to urge their local government or legislature to enact legislation preventing funding organisations, umbrella organisations from taking too much of the funds collected. 

Organisation who raise funds on behalf of other organisations should have to disclose their full accounts and not hide behind vague “commercial sensitivity” as a reason why they can’t, or rather won’t disclose how much they actually collect versus the sum handed over to the organisation they have collected for. 

What’s a reasonable amount, I couldn’t personally say; but I do feel that anything more than 40-50% is perhaps exorbitant – or to put it more bluntly a rort. Yes, there are organisations who collect on behalf, or using the name of an organisation “charging” a fee that is way beyond justifiable. I personally know of at least one who for many years were faced with “overheads” that ate into the money collected to the tune of 80%+. 

Most areas have an organisation representing it’s interest, Fundraising Institutes, Volunteer organisations – all of these should be approached to push their local governmental (central, local, borough) to introduce legislation to force full disclosure of fund collected v funds distributed. 

This will help clean up the sector, and help create confidence in the giving public. With more confidence that funds are being used for what they’re meant to be. 

All of these can and should be looked at by community, charity and other groups seeking support from their communities. Times are going to get tough, and the sector needs to look at how they can instil confidence, maintain their donor base and continue to deliver their services.


© David Winwood |


When Disaster Strikes – Opportunists

Back in September I posted When Disaster Strikes – Opportunists, since the devastating Christchurch earthquake of 22 Feb, we’ve heard some details of people trying to take advantage of the generosity of people wanting to help. Thankfully the media have picked up on reports of rogues trying to make a buck – and word is spreading that opportunists won’t be tolerated.

We need to be vigilant, if you’re approached to give support check and double check where the support you give will be used, who the people are asking for support. Most unscrupulous people will run a mile when asked a few simple questions – ask and ask again if you’re approached.

It’s not uncommon for fraudsters; scammers to circulate an email like the one mentioned in this item in the NZ Herald which talks of a Quake pretext in email scam. It’s really important that we’re all vigilant at times of a disaster; when see or hear of anything that raises questions or concerns about the legitimacy of any efforts to raise funds or to offer assistance to people who may have been affected. If we do come across something, we owe it to everyone, including the victims to report it and spread word of the scam.

For those in New Zealand this – Legitimacy of some charity collectors questioned – from the NZ Herald is a must read. 




Ongoing Support is Needed


As individuals, when disaster strikes we dig deep and give to a relief fund, often having to reduce or put a hold our regular giving. 

For an organisation, there is likely to be occasion when you’re income reduces as supporters divert their giving to a disaster relief fund. 

How can this be managed, can it be managed? 

Some organisations will have a contingency plan in place, others will have to fly by the seat of their pants; and just hope they can ride it out. 

We need to keep in touch with our supporters, we need to perhaps acknowledge that we understand their giving to any relief fund,  and that we look forward to their continued support when they’re able. 

I haven’t done any formal research, but been told by some people that anywhere from 15% to over 30% can be removed from the income of some organisations, when supporters reduce their giving to support a relief fund. 

This must surely cause concern within some organisations;  overheads still have to be met, outgoings for the services provided need to be met. I’d say there’d be some who would need to look at their situation closely. 

How can we manage a contingency, not being an accountant I won’t get into the dollars, cents and percentages; instead I thought I’d look at this from a communication view. 

I’ve already said that it’s important to stay in touch with your supporters. Perhaps you should get in early, within days of a disaster occurring and say let your supporters know that you understand that their support is important to both you, and the people affected by the disaster. That you understand, that they’re likely caught in a catch 22 situation – where do they put their donation money.

It’s by being in touch with supporters; that your message, the importance of their support and the work of the organisation, will be kept in their mind. 

Why have I raised this? Simply I had a conversation with someone recently who talked of the drop in ‘support income’ since the cyclones, flooding, earthquakes and fire that have devastated sizable communities; and cost the local economy, countries affected, many millions, if not billions of dollars in lost income, business that has come to a halt, consumers not spending  – perhaps moving away altogether. 

The major relief organisations do need our support, we can’t disregard that; perhaps as an organisation you could offer assistance to them. Do they have the capacity to field calls? Does your organisation have the capacity to assist? If so offer it. You’d hope someone would offer you the assistance if you needed it. 

It’s important no matter what that you stay in touch with your supporters, your stakeholders; and that you offer support where you can. You can’t afford to sit back and stress that income may have stalled, and worry about how you’ll regain it – you need to act. 

As individuals we need to remember the groups and individuals we normally support, and as soon as possible we must resume our giving to them. 

See also Charities hit as quake gets donor dollars

Help comes from all quarters


Since the Christchurch earthquake on the 22nd of September, help has been coming in from all quarters, international aid agencies, international search and rescue specialists; local and central Government, big business, small business and individuals.

We know that this support is needed and appreciated, what is getting to people is the sincerity, the passion behind the giving.

Hearts and wallets are opening to the needs of the people of Christchurch and surrounding areas.

Christchurch, will take years to recover from this disaster, and all of New Zealand are feeling the loss that the city has had, and the losses it will face for years to come. 

Individuals and organisations are gathering items to sell on TradeMe. Retailers are donating the proceeds of sales of goods, and Community groups the length and breadth of the country are holding events, fundraisers or other activities to raise support and help for the people of Christchurch. 

Mums and dads are opening their homes to strangers, offering a bed, meals and other support to people displaced by the quake. People have posted on Twitter that they couldn’t bear the continued aftershocks and just wanted out – which has been met with offers of airfares and accommodations. 

Businesses unrelated to Christchurch have been offering to take on work, others have been offering office space – all out of the goodness of their heart. 

We’ve all heard about the work of the “student army” of volunteers helping with the clean up. 

The Rangiora Express has been delivering food into affected areas by helicopter. 

People who have been ‘conscripted’ to do overtime to cover staff in affected areas are offering overtime wages to the earthquake appeal. 

Bake sales are continuing to be held, sewing and knitting groups are doing what they can to help out. 

It seems there’s no end to the imagination people are putting into ways they can help. Perhaps the devastation in Christchurch has brought New Zealand closer together as one large community; parochialism has taken a back seat. 

If you’re looking for a way you can help, just take a look at what others are doing, and do something similar in your area. 

Money is what is needed, and if you’re in Auckland you can get a donation bucket for your business –pop into the electorate office of local MP Jacinda Ardern (86 College Hill, Ponsonby, Auckland) and collect one. Jacinda’s office is open from 9-5. All money raised in these buckets will be given to the NZ Red Cross Appeal. 

Check the NZ Herald site for other ways you can help. 

When disaster strikes, no matter where in the world you are, be assured that the connections you have, the friends you have will tap into their resources to help; they will hear you in your time of need and use their networks to help, and where possible New Zealand will be there to help where it can. 

We’re a global community and as a community we need to do all we can to offer support. The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, has launched a global fundraising appeal – the need for help is so great that all avenues are being used to raise awareness and help. 

If there’s anything you can do to help, it will be appreciate, help will be needed for the weeks, months and possibly years to come. Spread the word among your connections. 

When you need help I’ll be watching to see how I can help. 



Image: Courtesy of mattinbgn

When disaster strikes, support is needed



I posted the following on Socialize Your Cause, to share with people around the globe the story of the devastation caused by last Tuesday’s earthquake.

On Tuesday 22 February the New Zealand city of Christchurch was hit by a devastating earthquake, 6.3 on the Richter scale; bringing destruction and death by natural disaster the country hasn’t seen in recent memory.

New Zealand with a population of about 4.7 million, has been reeling since news of the quake. Christchurch one of the main cities, with a population of around 500,000 was getting back to normal after an earthquake on the 4th of September 2010.

The earthquake of 22 February struck as people were on their lunch break -12:51pm, and has caused a large section of the central business district to be shut down by cordons as police and rescue workers from across the globe search for survivors.