Prior to Sept. 11, Planned Parenthood, the international family planning and reproductive rights organization, appealed to its constituents for donations by warning them of the impact the Bush administration would have on Roe v. Wade and on funding for family planning. However, when the hijacked airliners hit the Twin Towers and the once-bumbling president rose to the occasion, Planned Parenthood had to quickly change its tactics. The flow of checks into Planned Parenthood’s development office in Washington, D.C., was further reduced when the Brentwood postal facility was shut down during the anthrax scare.
As a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, the 86-year-old organization was facing a $2 million budget shortfall. When it resumed its fund-raising and new member recruiting efforts last October, Planned Parenthood turned to the Internet and e-mail to appeal to its members, donors and prospects. It recommended people donate via its website (www.plannedparenthood.org), says Molly Smith Watson, Planned Parenthood’s director of development for direct response.
Smith’s group used e-mail to send letters on the fly in addition to developing and distributing letters, which can take up to three weeks to reach recipients. This way, Planned Parenthood was able to appeal to members for donations by stressing the importance of the services it provides, instead of criticizing the Bush administration during a time of national tragedy. “When events are changing very rapidly, it’s hard to know the environment in which you’re sending your message when it takes three weeks to develop a direct mail campaign,” she says. “E-mail is received within minutes.”