Always Ready – The Red Cross and Fundraising Direct

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At the Red Cross, we talk about being prepared a lot. We want every household across the country to have an Emergency Preparedness kit, complete with battery-operated flashlight, a three-day supply of water, an emergency blanket and a first aid kit. We know that even though we’d all prefer not to have to use any of these items, disasters can strike at any time and we must all be prepared to deal with the worst. Whether a fire that forces an evacuation of your home or an ice storm that disrupts power lines, disasters don’t wait for you to get ready.

Preparedness relates to fundraising in the same way. When the Red Cross launches an appeal, we do not have time to wait or to be debating how to get our fundraising operation up and running. Our disaster plan extends into fundraising, which takes me to a recent campaign. With wildfires spreading throughout British Columbia and tens of thousands of residents forced to evacuate their communities, a fundraising appeal was launched.

Thanks to our partner Fundraising Direct, we are always ready to launch an appeal. We didn’t have to spend time talking about where our donor data was. We didn’t have to spend time talking about how to pull that data. We didn’t have to spend time rehashing conversations about how we make our message to donors clear.

We are always ready because, together, we have built the discipline to have the data ready and refreshed each month. We have our systems ready to go at a moment’s notice – in terms of people, process, technology and message. At that moment, nothing is more important to me as a fundraiser than quickly reaching out to our amazing donors – donors who are always there for us when people in Canada or around the world are in need. They’ll answer the call, both literally and figuratively. Speed is the name of the game and because we practice this, refine this and improve upon this – we were ready to deliver results that the people of British Columbia so desperately needed.

I won’t bore you with the statistics – the connect rates and average gift.  That’s secondary. What is primary and takes precedence is having the kind of partnership where everyone knows their role the moment an appeal is announced. Everyone does their bit – from the data team to the coaches to the campaign managers to the script writer and to the most important group – the fundraisers themselves.

The people of British Columbia will have been better served because the Red Cross and Fundraising Direct invested the time and the energy into getting the appeal launch framework done properly, done correctly and done thoroughly. Continuous improvement is a hollow phrase unless you have the commitment to actually follow through.  I’ve seen that continuous improvement over the last several years – and it has made this fundraising organization even better to serve the people the Red Cross serves. And, really, that’s why we are here.

Jay Hollister
Director, National Donor Experience & Engagement
Canadian Red Cross