8 Aid Groups Launch Rare Shared Fundraising Drive

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Jul 17, 2017

Eight international organizations are teaming up Monday for an unusual collaboration: a two-week fundraising campaign aimed at raising money quickly to alleviate famine in several African countries and Yemen.

The Global Emergency Response Coalition drive to raise money for its Hunger Relief Fund will run through July 28. The rapid-response effort will be conducted entirely online, with appeals by email, social media, and digital ads.

The campaign has enlisted Google and Twitter, along with PepsiCo and its foundation and other corporate partners, to help reach supporters.

For the charities involved, it will be an experiment to see if they can raise more for their cause by banding together than by working separately.

While aid groups have often made fundraising pushes at the same time in the wake of disasters and other crises, a coordinated effort in which they pool their development resources is unusual, says Cinira Baldi, senior director of mass-market fundraising at Mercy Corps.

Nonprofits "participate in sharing information, sharing best practices," Ms. Baldi says. "But in terms of pulling together in a joint appeal? We don’t do that."

Other members of the coalition include Care, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children, and World Vision. The coalition’s campaign will have no stated dollar goal.

The drive could prove to be a model for other parts of the nonprofit world — health or environmental groups, for example — that want to pool their fundraising resources to tackle an urgent problem.

Says Ms. Baldi, "We’re considering this a beta."

David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, echoes that idea. "We’re all committed to learning the lessons of this and to set the stage for us work together like this in the future."

Low-Profile Crisis

More than 20 million people are facing starvation over the next few months in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and other nearby countries, according to the United Nations. The coalition also reports that 1.4 million children in the region are at risk of dying of malnutrition without immediate aid.

The magnitude of the problem, and the dearth of U.S. news coverage it receives, prompted discussions in April at an informal forum for the leaders of major aid groups, which led to the coalition’s formation.

Mr. Miliband, who participated in the April meeting, points to a poll his organization released last week that showed only 15 percent of Americans are even aware of the African hunger crisis.

The cautionary tale of an African food shortage in 2011, when more than 258,000 people died of hunger in Somalia alone, due in part to a slow response by aid groups, influenced the current fundraising push, according to a statement by the coalition.

"It’s hard to fundraise around hunger," Ms. Baldi says. "It happens gradually. Because it doesn’t have that sudden onset like a natural disaster, I think people tune it out."

And these days, she adds, American news outlets are very focused on political news rather than humanitarian crises abroad.

This isn’t the first time international groups have attempted to coordinate fundraising. Eleven years ago, aid groups tinkered with a similar effort, which never got off the ground, according to Sam Worthington, chief executive of InterAction, an umbrella organization. Complications arose over deciding which groups would participate, how information would be shared, and coordinating the myriad ways in which the charities raised money.

But online fundraising technology has gotten much better in the ensuing years, Mr. Worthington says: "The upfront costs have dropped significantly since that time."

Sam Worthington is the CEO of InterAction.

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