How U.S. Charity workers arrested in Haiti could affect your fundraising

in Copywriting - Nonprofit,Cultivation & Stewardship,Fundraising,Publicity

More than one news source has covered this story.  And the US embassy has confirmed that 10 US citizens were being held for “alleged violations of Haitian laws related to immigration”.

Apparently the Idaho-based charity was stopped at the border to the Dominican Republic with a bus load of children – supposedly orphans.  But they were without proper documentation.  And after talking to authorities, some of the children have parents and know where they are

There are a couple links at the end of my post to the news stories and more of the details. 

But the point I want to make is this:  “Negative” publicity like this could easily receive a lot of attention.  It can plant the seed of doubt in the minds of donors.  You could suffer some backlash.  Donors are thinking, “Gee, if it happened with this group, and given how crazy it seems to be in Haiti, maybe other groups are over-reaching their authority.  Maybe other groups are getting a bit carried away.”

Donors MIGHT hesitate sending you a donation unless you can overcome their objections with your “pro-active copy.”  Your marketing, publicity and fundraising communications need to wipe out their seed of doubt before it impacts your charity.

Therefore, consider pro-active damage control if your nonprofit is involved in Haiti relief efforts.  And especially if you’re working with orphans and children. 

Emphasize the many steps you’re taking to . . .

o protect the children
o verify that their parents are deceased
o to reconnect “lost” children with their parents
o to care for, feed, nourish, and give medical aid to the children
o work with officials in any way you can, whenever you can

And if you have been working in Haiti for several years – you didn’t arrive for the first time after the earthquake – then certainly emphasize this too.   Successful and long track records are another credibility booster.

Basically reassure your donors that nothing like this could possibly happen to your nonprofit, regardless of how chaotic the situation may still be in Haiti.  Transparency can help ensure your nonprofit continues to receive the donations it needs.

Longer news story from “Online Independent.”

Story released by “Voice of America.”

Feb 18, 2010 update: Very brief recap is that the 10 missionaries were arrested on January 31st.  Then on February 5th they were charged with “child kidnapping and criminal association” and sent to jail awaiting trial.  But today the Associated Press reports that eight of the ten missionaries have been released.  The other two remain in jail in Haiti.