NAMI's Katrina Gay on Emergency Appeals
As hurricanes Gustav and Ike ripped along the Gulf Coast during the first days of September, they disrupted millions of lives. For the foreseeable future, the devastation will challenge Louisiana and Texas residents who need to rebuild their lives after losing homes and businesses.
But Katrina Gay, communications director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, knows there are numerous unseen hurricane victims. For the mentally ill, these acts of nature may have cut away their safe routines and their lifelines to physicians, medicine and other essential support services.
So Gay worked with her Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit advocacy organization to create the NAMI Fund for Hurricanes Gustav & Ike Disaster Relief to Help People with Mental Illnesses. NAMI announced the relief fund on Sept. 16 by sending out thousands upon thousands of fundraising e-mails to an already sympathetic audience.
Target Marketing: It appears that instead of having to push your message, circumstances have allowed you to pull in people who already care about what you stand for and know about the natural disasters. So what prompted you to direct their attention to your relief effort via e-mail? Is this the primary channel you're using?
Katrina Gay: This is the primary channel we're using. ... [For] anything that's immediate and requires an immediate response or that's what I would consider an opportunity - a sort of action item - we use e-mail, because it's the quickest way to get to them.
TM: What was your e-mail list source? Did you mainly use the addresses from NAMI's message boards?
KG: We have a registration option on our Web site, where we allow people to basically opt in, and we let them chose whether or not they would like to register. ... We get about 600,000-plus visits to our Web site a month, and we have roughly 150,000 to 200,000 people who've registered. When they register on our Web site, we allow them to select some options and opt in to get information from NAMI, and they can select the particular interest area that they would like to receive information on. So if they're only interested in information on the latest research, for example, they can choose that. But they can also choose to get general information from NAMI. And what we'll do is when we do an e-mail such as this one, basically an e-mail "take action" blast, we'll send it to anyone who has identified that, "Yes, I would like to receive the latest information from NAMI. You can send it to me."