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6 lessons from the Notre-Dame emergency campaign


Emergencies can affect all charity sectors as unexpected disasters and crises can strike at any time and require immediate response. Knowing how to be prepared in advance is crucial to launch successful emergency fundraising appeals. It will determine how effectively your organisation can respond to the needs of those affected by the crisis and even save lives.

The controversy that surrounded the level of attention given to Notre-Dame de Paris when it burned down is debatable. However, it is certain that the emergency fundraising event was a remarkable success. It also taught everyone involved in charity several valuable lessons.

More than one billion euros were raised in a few days, representing nearly 20% of the annual funds collected by French philanthropy.

Most of the funds came from major donors and companies.

However, the figures from online donations were impressive. These donations came from a large majority of individual donors. 30 million euros were collected online coming from 250,000 donations, ranging from 1 euro to 100,000 euros. The median donation being 100 euros and an average donation of 130 euros.

Why was it so successful? Below we take a look at six main lessons that can be drawn from this exceptional event:



1. Be one of the firsts

The first observation was the explosion in the number of charities who collected funds from the general public. Including some that neither were legitimate sources nor able to issue a tax receipt.

While the monument was still in flames, internet users started collecting donations from the French public through countless channels. 1,800 fundraising campaigns were set up on Leetchi. 50 donation pages were set up on GoFundme. Many collection pages were created on Le Pot Commun and Facebook.

Charities were now “in competition” with these personal initiatives, which were being set up very quickly.

Even if the associations could recover the collected funds at a later stage, they did not easily and automatically recover the donor data. This caused a missed opportunity. They were not in direct contact with donors who had given to personal initiatives. Therefore, they could not recruit them as future recurring donors.


2. Be reassuring

Journalists’ alerts to the risks of scams and the number of players may have caused confusion among internet users and donors.

rassurerThe 4 main charities raising money to rebuild Notre-Dame made their donors feel safe when giving. They proposed a donation form with the organisations' colours and logo. And they linked to an official and recognized website with a secure url. This gave the donor the necessary confidence & reassurance that their donation is going to the right place.


3. Be the first

etre_premierFour official associations (Fondation du Patrimoine, Fondation Notre-Dame, Centre des Monuments Nationaux and Fondation de France) were involved in the national campaign, but it was the Fondation du Patrimoine which collected 60% of donations from individuals. Why? Because it was the very first to launch its emergency campaign.

The media had first-hand access to the information and the Fondation du Patrimoine, so it was the first to appear on Google, and social media (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn). This represented up to 30% of traffic.

Since 70% of the funds were collected within 48 hours, it’s safe to say it is necessary to move faster and faster.

Therefore, it is necessary to think upstream. Organize on-call teams that can operate outside working days and hours all year round. Establish intervention procedures and dedicated budgets that can be immediately invested in media purchases.

Identify service providers that can be called upon urgently. This will further promote the agility and autonomy of operational teams, and accelerate decision-making to the maximum.


4. Think mobile. Ensure a responsive user experience

penser_mobile50% of connections to the online donation forms were made through a smartphone. However, smartphone donations accounted for only 21% of the total.


How is this possible? Because the mobile user experience was not optimal. Entering all personal information and a credit card is not suitable for a mobile experience.

It is therefore important to reduce the number of fields to the minimum. Make it easier for supporters with auto-fill features, and offer one-click payment methods such as PayPal, Apple Pay, AmazonPay, and GooglePay.


5. Appeal to companies

impliquer_entreprisesFrench companies very quickly wanted to join this surge of generosity and show their solidarity with their employees, but also with customers, shareholders, partners and suppliers. In order to better involve them, it is relevant to create personalised donation forms for companies where they can raise funds with their network, match their employees’ and clients’ donations, and possibly cover transaction costs.


6. Don't wait for the emergency to happen

etre_pretThe world is becoming more connected and faster-paced every day. Emergencies can come one after another, and it is important to anticipate and plan for an emergency appeal.

Having a plan of action before-hand can make a life-saving difference. If you want to have a more detailed guide on how to plan ahead, including budget planning, a communication plan and more, take a look at this article!

Having a highly secure donation form is a must. It must be multilingual and capable of supporting heavy traffic (more than two million visits).

In the case of Notre Dame, all the countries in the world made a donation (except Somalia and North Korea). iRaiser saw up to fifteen thousand connections per second, and faced more than a hundred attempted cyber attacks in a week!

During some television appearances, some charity websites or dedicated landing pages took up to six seconds to load because they were unable to support the traffic! Unfortunately, many donations were lost because of this. Being able to cope with such an influx requires an appropriate infrastructure.

Learn now how to find the right platform for your online donations, read our article: finding the right donation platform for your charity.