War's effect on nonprofits was the subject of a forum last evening sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington.
Nearly everyone in the audience expected the United States to go to war with Iraq within 60 days. With that, panelists gave suggestions for coping with a war from a nonprofit-fundraising perspective.
Though the economy is bad and consumer confidence is already low, panelists agreed that more money would be lost by not mailing during a war than by mailing wisely. However, they warned against testing unless it was a minor detail of a package that was previously effective.
If your organization's cause is relevant to the war, the panel advocated speaking up about it.
“People are mad, and they want to be engaged,” panelist Dennis McCarthy of Share Group said. “The challenge is to remain relevant.”
Several panelists warned against telemarketing because people will be too busy watching television coverage. Another panelist suggested not dating printed forms in case an anthrax-like mail hold-up occurred again during the conflict.
To that end, panelists recommended that nonprofits ensure their Web sites were operating and ready to take donations.
In an interview before the forum, panelist Mark Rovner, senior vice president at Craver, Matthews, Smith & Co., cautioned nonprofits against forcing a connection to the war in their messages.
“I think that's more likely to backfire and turn off donors,” he said.
Other panelists included Frank O'Brien, O'Brien, McConnell and Pearson; Tom McGuire, National Wildlife Federation; Joe Manes, AB Data; Keary Kinch, Adams and Hussey; and Temple Elliott, Epsilon.
The panel was moderated by Fran Jacobovitz Metcalf of Lautman & Co. It also was Webcast. The forum was sponsored by the Share Group and Lautman & Co. and held at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC.