FYI Blog

Rapid Response Campaign Planning

At some point, all nonprofits are affected by a major external event — a devastating natural disaster; a Supreme Court decision; a presidential candidate making an outrageous statement on their issues — and must turn on a dime to raise donors’ awareness and/or appeal to them for support.

We recommend setting up a rapid response plan framework now, with options and procedures nailed down so you can respond within 48 hours, 24 hours, or even that same day. When creating this framework, keep the following tips in mind:

  • To send the first communication as quickly as possible after the event, some procedures have to be tweaked, or abandoned altogether: forgo testing; expedite copywriting and approval; simplify segmentation; use generic art, or a text-only format to imply urgency.
  • Maintain a list of everyone who will need to approve rush email copy and graphics – include contact email and cell phone numbers. And make sure these people have signed off on the rapid response plan before you need to implement it.
  • Consider instituting a quarterly email pull of active and lapsed donors/supporters to have fresh data available at all times.
  • For events like an anticipated Supreme Court decision, you can create two responses ahead of time and launch the appropriate one when the decision is handed down.


Avalon has had great success with rapid response campaigns, most recently for clients Farm Sanctuary and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.


When Farm Sanctuary was tipped off about a horrific farm where animals were living in unspeakable conditions, their staff and Avalon moved into rapid response mode. Just days after the rescue, we launched an email campaign to supporters that included a link to a YouTube video of the appalling conditions that the rescuers found at the farm. Photos showing some of the rescued animals, and a graphic description of cruelty these animals endured, completed the compelling presentation.


We followed up a week later with a second email about the rescued animals’ improving health, while pressing the need for emergency funding for this and other inevitable future rescues. This campaign was Farm Sanctuary’s highest-grossing rescue campaign produced by Avalon, and also the highest-grossing single email that we’ve sent.


When President Obama unexpectedly announced his support for gay marriage, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force had to reach its supporters immediately. Within three hours, Avalon drafted, got approved, set up, tested, and sent an email to Task Force supporters, asking them to sign a thank you card to President Obama. With a 14.49% open rate, a 4.85% click-through rate, and a 4.37% response rate, the email was a tremendous success.


A rapid response plan – put in place well before the emergency occurs – means that organizations can capitalize on breaking news to capture their supporters’ attention and move them to act.