When natural disasters strike, such as the Southeast Asia tsunamis or Monday’s Hurricane Katrina destruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, banks should use their considerable web reach to help their customers make safe and secure donations to sanctioned relief agencies such as the Red Cross.
With all the concern about online phishing and fraud, consumers need a trusted conduit to make donations. And the sooner the link is posted, the better. As bad as it is, for much of the country, it will no longer be top-of-mind in a few days or weeks.
Major banks fail to respond thus far
Granted its only been three days, but we were surprised to find that of the largest 50 U.S financial institutions only three, Chase (Chase.com and BankOne.com), Wachovia (Wachovia.com and Suntrust.com), and Washington Mutual (wamu.com), have posted links to the Red Cross to make online donations (see Wachovia banner above).
Seven others had hurricane-related information, but no links for donations:
– Regions, AmSouth, Navy FCU, Compass Bank, and of course New Orleans-based Hibernia all had information on branch closings
– USAA posted tips for dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane
– Commerce Bank (NJ) ran a headline ticker on the top of the homepage offering to match donations up to a total of $50,000 (which strikes us as bit stingy if you are going to blast it across your homepage)
The best response, from a customer service and PR perspective, is to announce a corporate contribution and provide secure links to the Red Cross and other relief agencies. Contributions should also be accepted via mail or in-branch.
Wachovia does it right, with a small, but highly visible homepage link explaining its efforts and providing the important message, You Can Too (see inset above). Clicking on the link leads users to a landing page that explains Wachovia’s $250,000 corporate commitment along with two important links (click on inset for a closeup look):
1. Donate Now link to a Red Cross store established on Yahoo handle Katrina donations
2. Email this page to spread the word
Even if your bank is not prepared to make a corporate contribution, it can still support fund-raising efforts with a link to the official donation site.