The Correlation Between Hurricane Katrina and 9/11

Beads imageMany of us have watched the news regarding the Gulf Coast with the hope that we, as a country, would pull together and bring aid to the devastated region. This compelling drive to provide the basic physical as well as spiritual needs to people is basic human nature. We’ve seen it in the responses to the Oklahoma City Bombing, the terrorist attack on 9/11 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

If history is any teacher, at some point we need to ask ourselves – what will happen next month or the month after when the evacuation has ended and at least the basic needs are met? How will you refocus your donors and funders on the daily realities with which your organization deals?

The Association of Fundraising Professionals in conjunction with the American Association of Fundraising Council published a powerful letter post-9/11 which is still poignant as well as relevant. Below you will find a reprint.


Our friends at the American Association of Fund Raising Counsel (AAFRC) have asked AFP to distribute the attached memo about fundraising in light of the tragic events of September 11. The memo contains some great advice to all nonprofits, and we are pleased to pass it on.

September 20, 2001

Dear Friends:
The events of last Tuesday have touched us all. The shocking images of airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center; the unimaginable sadness of thousands of family and friends still missing; the unsettling feeling that our sense of security has been badly shaken…and the uncertainty of what happens next. These are the thoughts and images that keep coming back to remind us that, as much as we try, it isn’t quite “business as usual,” at least not yet.

So what does this mean for all of us who work on behalf of non-profit institutions, who work in the field of philanthropy? What are the implications of this past week’s events, and how do we respond?

Monday afternoon, AAFRC members from across the country joined together in a conference call in an effort to answer these very questions. After much discussion and thoughtful deliberation, we came to the unanimous conclusion: we must all find the resolve to push forward.

The institutions that you, our colleagues and friends, represent are the very foundation of a free and democratic society, the hallmarks of a civilized nation…and it is essential that they continue to be strong.

So what should you be doing in the days and weeks ahead? Here are some thoughts and suggestions from the members of the AAFRC.

Recognize what your volunteers and donors may be thinking right now. Many of them will make generous donations to the relief efforts. You may want to acknowledge this, and even support this, through messages on your website and at your facilities. These same donors will continue to support your organization, as they have in the past, because they care deeply about the work you do. They simply must write other checks right now.

  • Don’t cancel or postpone planned activities unless there are truly valid reasons for doing so. While a special event may seem very inappropriate today, postponing this may result in lost fundraising revenue that cannot be replaced later in the year. Think about how the event might be reshaped to acknowledge what your audience may be feeling, but remember also that special events can bring people together when they need this most.
  • Similarly, don’t interrupt your organization’s direct mail and telemarketing cycles. You may need to revise the timing somewhat, but don’t cancel the fall schedule of appeals. You may need to rethink the content of your letter or phone message to stress those aspects of your organization’s work that matter most at this particular time. It may not be appropriate specifically to recall last Tuesday’s events, but it is never inappropriate to reflect on those values and ideals that are at the heart of what you do.
  • Don’t stop planning or fundraising to meet critical needs. While the saying may seem trite, it embodies serious wisdom: The best time to raise money is when you need it most. And if your needs are well presented — if you have engaged your Board and other key stakeholders in identifying and articulating these needs — your program will generate the support it deserves.

But what happens next? What will be the impact of these events on our economy and, consequently, on the work we do? The truthful answer to that is “We don’t really know.” But if history holds any lessons for us, we can derive confidence from the fact that the total amount of giving in this country has increased every year, but one, for the past 40 years, through wars, recessions and other world crises. While the rate of growth has varied from year to year, the bottom line is that each year Americans have given more than the previous year. We can all take pride in these facts.

We are all action-oriented people. We demonstrate this daily in the collective work that we do. Now, more than ever, we must stand strong and move forward with resolve to continue to accomplish all that is good in our world.

With gratitude,

Russell G. Weigand, CFRE Chair, AAFRC