As online fundraisers, we often encourage our clients to keep their messaging relevant by paying close attention to the news cycle. If Congress is debating gun control, for example, then emails, Facebook posts, and tweets for that week should focus on, or at the very least mention, gun control. If major news breaks, we’re always prepared to be flexible and adjust our messaging accordingly.
But what happens when a national tragedy occurs?
Whether it’s a terror attack, a deadly explosion, a tornado leveling a town, or a tragic hurricane, the best practice is – in almost all cases – to halt all fundraising immediately.
First, in such a situation your message isn’t going to break through the clutter of what can feel like endless news coverage. More importantly, you do not want to appear out-of-touch, ignorant, or worse, insensitive. As we’ve had to pause fundraising for campaigns and organizations many times during tragic events—9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Newtown shooting, and of course, last month’s Boston terror attack come to mind instantly—we know what the repercussions are going to be. Fundraising can dry up for days, and in some cases even weeks, and the unlucky candidate caught trying to raise money or conducting business as usual during this time can face unexpected and unfortunate consequences for doing such.
At the end of the day, Americans forget their differences and stand united during times of need. Even if a tragedy occurs in a city like Boston, Americans in places like Seattle, Los Angeles, and Juneau likely aren’t going to respond favorably to any messaging that takes the focus away from the victims and survivors of a tragedy. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for when unfortunate and sad situations occur—including having the ability to stop scheduled messages from deploying and even pausing all communications—at least until you have time to assess the gravity of the situation and adjusting your strategy accordingly.