December 2007

Convio's On-Demand Solutions and Client Services Help Nonprofits Respond to Wildfires

by Laura Brown, Account Manager, Convio

In the wake of the vast and deadly wildfires in Southern California, nonprofit organizations of all sizes leveraged Convio's on-demand solutions and services to inform constituents and raise funds for emergency shelter, medical supplies and health and human services.

In the first few days of the emergency, the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA (SDHS) assisted in the evacuation and care of hundreds of animals, working with Convio to quickly update their fire resources page on the organization's Web site. SDHS acted as the main source of information to pet owners during the crisis.

"Convio did a tremendous job of jumping in and helping us out when we were at a mission critical time. They helped us make information accessible very quickly about the rapidly changing fire situation and allowed us to promote how we helped fire victims with pets," said Simran Noon, PR and Marketing Director for SDHS.

"Convio really was a critical piece of our emergency response."

- Simran Noon, PR and Marketing Director, San Diego Humane Society

When the fires broke out, Noon was in the field taking photos, getting home at late hours to update the organization's Web site. "We really appreciated the Client Success Services team's time, particularly our Virtual Administrator, who made our emergency a priority. That coupled with the remote Web and constituent management that the Convio technology affords, we were able to get information to the people that needed it most, regardless of where we were," said Noon.

In addition to their rescue and animal care efforts, SDHS successfully solicited necessary supplies and raised over $150,000 online in the first six days of the emergency, increasing its Web site visits by 56% in October.

From their headquarters in Santa Barbara, CA, Direct Relief International raised $23,584 in online donations from an email campaign sent to its house file. Attending a conference in Philadelphia when the fires broke out, Direct Relief's press secretary Jim Prosser coordinated online outreach and communications from across the country thanks to having multiple staff trained on Convio and contingency plans for handling emergencies when staff members are away from the office.

"Our first goal was to inform people about how Direct Relief was helping people impacted by the fires," said Prosser, who worked with staff to update constituents on the organization's delivery of critically needed supplies through a series of emails that directed them to the organization's Web site, which was updated daily.

"We definitely saw a spike in Web traffic," said Prosser, who advises organizations to make sure they have multiple staff members trained on their online constituent relationship management system to respond effectively when news hits the ground.

"You can't plan for an event's particulars but you can plan on how you'll use your online system."

Jim Prosser, press secretary, Direct Relief International

In addition, advised Prosser, organizations should develop an emergency response plan that outlines expectations and timing, such as posting an informational Web page within the first 12 hours, getting out an email the next day, and sending email updates at least once a day, etc.

Holiday season giving: Creating a sense of urgency

"It's important to look at the long-term, after the headlines fade," said Prosser, acknowledging that while organizations typically see greater Web traffic and a noticeable increase in donations during the holiday season, the challenge for Direct Relief as well as other emergency response organizations is how to create a sense of urgency when there is no emergency at the moment.

"The fires will be extinguished but there will be lingering problems and complications that won't necessarily be covered by the media,” said Prosser, advising organizations to “look at who will continue to be impacted, and communicate these needs to your constituents as part of your holiday season and year-round communications."

Sharing best practices and ideas is what Convio's new online client Community (login required) is all about. Not yet part of the Convio community? See Convio's Resources section for the latest online best practices tips and insights on how to attract constituents, drive action, and build loyalty through online relationship management.

Convio's On-Demand Solutions and Client Services Help Nonprofits Respond to Wildfires | Convio