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Nonprofit Wins Diamond Echo Award

By Marla Nobles - November 15, 2007

A small volunteer fire department in the rural town of Eagle, Idaho did the unthinkable at the 2007 Direct Marketing Association International ECHO awards gala. The nonprofit swept the competition, taking both a gold ECHO award and the grand prize, the Diamond ECHO.

There was still the usual international flavor at this year’s “Oscars of direct marketing,” held in Chicago last month during the DMA’s annual conference. Seven of the 11 nonprofit winners were organizations outside the United States. Overall, 130 awards were presented at the ECHO Awards Ceremony & Gala, hosted this year by comic Howie Mandel, of “Deal or No Deal” television fame.

The record 1,124 entries were categorized into 12 primary business segments, including automotive, business and consumer services, communications/utilities, financial products and services, information technologies, insurance, pharmaceutical/healthcare, product manufacturing and distribution, publishing/entertainment, retail and direct sales, travel and hospitality/transportation, and not-for-profit, for which there were 138 entries. Categories were further divided into advertising media categories, which this year expanded to include email and instant messaging, mobile, search engine marketing, Web advertising, and Web development.

Nonprofits won in the gold, silver and bronze categories. The Diamond ECHO, for which both nonprofit and for-profit nominees compete, went to the Eagle, Idaho Volunteer Fire Department.


Have A Ball. Or Two. Eagle, Idaho Volunteer Fire Department Eagle, Idaho Various Media

Making bulls around the world both nervous and proud, the top award went to the Eagle, Idaho Volunteer Fire Department for its deliciously humorous take on a local “delicacy.” The event raised nearly $40,000 and broke all previous attendance records.

“Eat a bull’s ball, help save a life” was the motto at the 2006 Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival (RMOF). Because it’s the only fundraising event hosted by the group, the main goal was to increase the number of tickets sold and to raise more money. The group faced several major challenges, including competition, evolving the RMOF from a small-town festival to a major area event, and reaching beyond the rural town of Eagle.

With direction from New York City communications agency Draftfcb, the group used television and radio to promote the event, and drove supporters to a Web site where they could purchase tickets and exclusive merchandise, play games and get facts. And, a sweepstakes was developed. Posters were placed in high-traffic areas, while bar coasters were handed out at area events.

To the chagrin of the local mayor who attempted – without success – to pull the plug on the event, each media piece took a humorous and oftentimes boorish turn (read: bull-testicle shaped fans). The group made bulls their “spokespeople,” some of whom were “proud to give to the cause,” others who were appalled and angered by the barbaric — but allegedly tasty – practice of eating the battered and deep-fried treat. A bull “support site” was set up, aptly named:

The 2006 event raised 24 percent more money than the previous year. Advance ticket sales increased by 55 percent, and 90 percent of ticket sales were made online. Merchandise sales increased 53 percent, with some items selling out prior to the event. The total cost to roll out was less than $50,000.


Have A Ball. Or Two. Eagle, Idaho Volunteer Fire Department Eagle, Idaho Various Media See above story.

Intolerants Anonymous Instituto de la Juventud (The Youth Institute) Madrid, Spain Various Media

“Homophobia is very harmful to the society but especially to the homophobe who suffers it. Let’s help him.” “Racism is a terrible feeling of hatred caused by ignorance. Let’s help the racists.”

Placed on placards and in television spots, these powerful headlines were the crux of a campaign launched by Spanish nonprofit Instituto de la Juventud (Injuve) to raise awareness of intolerance. The strategy was to use the inverse idea of helping intolerant people to overcome their problem.

To make the concept “ground and grow,” Injuve, with direction from the Madrid-based Shackleton agency, tapped into various media. The group used the Web ( to provide people with tools and information. A thermometer on the site showed how news and events referencing intolerance made awareness go up or down.

Two commercials, “man” and “woman,” were broadcast on television, theater screens and the Web. Mailings to opinion leaders, teachers and institutions entailed an anonymous person — black rectangle over the eyes — asking for help due to a problem with intolerance, and included campaign materials, a DVD, and several pairs of black, paper glasses so the recipients could also be “anonymous,” and acknowledge their own intolerance.

The Web site received more than 150,000 visits, 237 percent more than the goal, and 36,980 downloads of the commercials, posters and articles. More than 5,600 emails were sent to friends from the Web site. The campaign cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

NSPCC Pencil Pack NSPCC London, UK Direct Mail/Email

The NSPCC works with children, young people and their families to end child abuse. The charity has four objectives: mobilize action to end child cruelty; provide children the help, support and environment to be safe; work with communities; and, be seen as the group to turn to for youth.

But first, the NSPCC had to break through the clutter of like-minded London nonprofits and reverse the sector’s falling response rates. To stop people in their tracks, the group decided to bring emotional engagement to a heartbreaking level. It also aimed to engage employees in payroll giving.

The NSPCC mail piece, designed by WWAV in London, took full advantage of all three dimensions and five senses. The envelope was devoid of any marketing other than simple text instructing recipients to fold the envelope.  A pencil placed inside the envelope would then snap in half. When the recipients opened the envelope and read the contents — a story about Jeremy, who as a child had his arm broken by his abuser — they learned they’d just experienced how easy it is to break a child’s arm.

The envelopes were placed on the employees’ desks, followed a day a later with an email explaining that any gifts would be matched.

The campaign boosted payroll giving from 2 percent to 10 percent, with an average monthly gift of £10 that was doubled by the employer. Response rates increased to 6.8 percent, with a cost per response of $29.41. The cost to roll out the campaign was less than $50,000, converted to U.S. dollars.


A Sense That Makes Sense Fundación Luz (The Light Foundation) Santiago, Chile Direct Mail/Telemarketing

Fundación Luz is an organization dedicated to promoting the use of blind persons in the work force. The challenge the group faced with its latest campaign, A Sense That Makes Sense, was to reverse the perception that the blind cannot perform most business tasks. In particular, the group wanted to show food and wine industry leaders, as well as journalists who specialize in the food and wine industry, that a blind person has a competitive edge when the use of other senses than sight is critical, and thus should be hired.

The group worked with agency Di Paola y Asociados, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A simple two-fold mail piece was sent to a list of 500 relevant contacts inviting them to a wine tasting event. The outer message asked recipients to identify an aroma contained within the envelope, and the front page resolved the teaser by congratulating recipients if they correctly identified the aroma (vanilla tea), which few did. This showed the advantages of blind people in detecting aromas. The mailing was followed with confirmation telephone calls.

Sixty recipients attended the event, a response of 12 percent to a cold list, during which they were shown the wine tasting abilities of the blind participants, graduates of the charity’s seven-session teaching course. The results of the event were manifold: mentions of the event showed up in various media outlets, at no cost. The participating business people agreed to hire the graduates and fund a professional development program.

All costs, including the place and materials for the event and the agency fees were donated.

Minor Report Save the Children, Romania Bucharest, Romania Direct Mail/Telemarketing

Save The Children Romania had a unique challenge, one that likely every charity in the U.S. would love to have — the marketplace for charities isn’t cluttered, and fundraising events are rare.

But, so is giving in Romania.

When the charity began planning its 2006 Festival of Trees event, held every winter, the lack of philanthropic spirit in Romanian society was a huge consideration. With the help of agency Proximity Bucharest, the charity looked to Hollywood for inspiration, modeling their latest fundraising campaign after the 2002 Tom Cruise sci-fi flick, Minority Report.

The objective of the “Minor Report” campaign was to convince 20 famous Romanian designers to create — pro bono — artistic Christmas trees for STC’s Festival of Trees, and to find a way to speed up the designers’ consistently slow response.

STC mailed designers two contradictory messages, the first by “special police” who can predict future crimes, asking for help in the arrest of a little girl. The second mailing, attributed to STC, contained a message from the girl herself, asking the designers to help her by creating a Christmas tree. This would keep her in school and out of trouble. The mailing was followed by telephone calls from STC’s president.

Seventeen of the targeted 20 designers participated. The auction raised a record $358,000 Ð approximately 76 percent more than the previous year. The cost to roll out the campaign was under $50,000.

Listen To Teddy FOD (Endangered Children Fund) Prague, Czech Republic Alternative Media

Little Claire is terrified of her father, who shouts at her, calls her bad names, and beats her. Little Claire has a problem, but nobody to tell. Alone in her bedroom, Little Claire turns to the only one she can trust — her teddy bear.

Using the singular voice of Little Claire, the Prague-based Endangered Children Fund (FOD) told the story of countless other abused and endangered children that have only their “teddy bears” to confide in. “Listen To Teddy,” the charity’s latest fundraising campaign, had such resonance that the group saw a whopping 1,000-percent return on investment. Even more, the issue of abused children was reopened in legislative discussion.

FOD was one of the first serious foundations in the Czech Republic dealing with the issue of abused children, but through the years the marketplace has expanded to include numerous others. Against investing money in big “thank you” events or galas, FOD sought a low-cost alternative with some serious punch. Enter Little Claire.

Working with agency Proximity Prague, FOD assembled its creative involving a teddy bear and a pre-recorded message from “Little Claire,” telling the story of her abuse. The bear was packaged in his “home,” a shoebox designed by Claire. The target audience included CEOs of the top 200 companies in the Czech Republic, as well as politicians and leaders interested in the issue of child abuse, and average-plus households. The package asked for donations and offered a personal meeting with the group’s chairwoman to discuss the issue.

A media campaign in daily newspapers and on posters at toy stores urged people to call an information line from their cell phones. There they could listen to Claire’s message, followed by a text message automatically sent to callers, thanking them and asking for a reply (at a cost of $1) if they wished to help. The campaign cost $4,000.

1 in 4 Women Refuge London, UK Alternative Media

One in four women in the UK will suffer domestic violence at some point in their lives, a fact that is largely unknown among the UK public. Refuge, the UK’s leading charity dealing with domestic violence, believes it is unknown because most people, particularly women, simply don’t want to know.

Addressing this “blind eye” was a key objective of Refuge’s latest fundraising campaign, “1 in 4 Women,” along with driving traffic to Refuge’s Web site, and expanding its audience beyond those already affected. One problem: traditional media wasn’t an option. Direct mail or door drops could potentially be fuel to a violent partner if spotted, charity emails get ignored, and advertising media favors had all been used up.

Targeting businesses, Refuge worked with London agency Craik Jones Waston Mitchell Voelkel to create a package that would stimulate the thought: “Someone in our office must be suffering.” The group sent free boxes of fruit to local businesses, placed in communal areas. The fruit was delivered in real fruit boxes, so it felt authentic rather than “marketing-y,” and messages such as “stop the bruising” and “bruising also happens on the inside,” were placed on each piece via stickers reflecting Refuge’s signature pink and black branding. Grocer style brown bags conveyed a deeper message and a stronger call to action: go online, learn more, help stop the bruising.

For every dollar spent, the campaign generated $3.14 in donations, and received a 23-percent-response — not 23 percent of the 50 companies, but of the pieces of fruit. (Coincidentally, that’s one in four). The Web site received 33 percent more traffic, and 13 percent of site visitors went on to sign up to support Refuge’s lobbying campaign. To roll out cost less than $50,000.

Rewrite the Future Save the Children – London, UK London, UK Various Media

Save the Children (STC), UK, didn’t meet the objectives of its “Rewrite the Future” campaign during its first year out. The London charity exceeded them.

Up against myriad other charities doing similar works, a cynical London public, and suffering relatively low brand awareness, STC knew it had to pull out all the stops to promote its five-year global initiative, “Rewrite the Future.” Additionally, the objective — to raise money to keep kids living in war zones in school — wasn’t sexy enough.

Working with agency Proximity London, STC used a wide variety of media and very stirring and compelling creative to galvanize support for the campaign’s objective. STC targeted middle- and upper-income families.

The most captivating aspect was the mock textbooks created to look as though they’d been shot full of bullet holes, then sent to potential donors. For the press inserts, class photos from a school in South Africa were also “shot full of holes.” The chilling message: imagine militia attacking your schools, killing teachers, turning places of learning into places of fear.

The microsite was equally chilling. STC brought to life real drawings by school children in war zones, using simple animation to show schools being destroyed by bombs or teachers being killed. The unsettling animations were titled, “What I did this summer.”

The campaign raised nearly $124,000, and portions of the media resulted in ROI as high as 0.3 percent. Online, the campaign site received more than 58,000 click thrus, and 6 percent of visitors clicked the “donate” button. The inserts enjoyed an ROI increase of 28 percent compared to the charity’s previous campaign. The total cost to roll out was between $250,000 and $500,000.

Deworming Pharmaceutical Gifts-In-Kind World Vision Federal Way, Wash. Direct Mail

Response rates to World Vision’s pharmaceutical gifts-in-kind offer had fallen by 46 percent during the past three years, an all-time low for the Federal Way, Wash.-based charity. To address this decline, instead of focusing on the idea of helping deliver donated medicines to children in a general sense, the charity decided to attack one specific ailment – worms.

Working with Russ Reid Company, in Pasadena, Calif., World Vision created a new mailing format – bright orange envelope with an innovative side flap – to present the necessary information, all with a focus on the cause and cure of the little-known yet horrific problem of infection by worms.

To really hit home for the target audience of conservative mothers, World Vision used a drop date that put the package in homes in May and June, a time when their children were beginning to go outdoors for summer play, running barefoot in yards, making puddles with the hose and getting wet Ð a potential breeding ground for parasitic worms.

The ask was to help cover the shipping and distribution costs of medicines the charity had received from pharmaceutical companies. Because of the companies’ gifts in-kind, World Vision could tell donors their gift would multiply 12 times in value.

The package had a 6.76-percent response rate, beating at least 10 prior efforts. “Worms” also generated the second-highest average gift ($49.10) and raised $550,326, well above what the charity needed to distribute the donated medicines. The cost to roll out was between $50,000 and $100,000.

Can You Open – Major Donor Sock Program American Leprosy Missions Greenville, S.C. Direct Mail/Interactive

By asking one simple question – Can you open this envelope? – the American Leprosy Mission (ALM) enabled donors to experience the complex reality of someone suffering from leprosy.  The result: a 9.52-percent response rate, along with the dissemination that leprosy is still an issue in the world today.

In celebration of the charity’s 100th anniversary in 2006, ALM challenged major donors to give a very large gift through the use of a unique package and ask. The interactive package had to both enable donors to ÒfeelÓ how someone with leprosy would feel, all the while keeping the perceived value of the package as low as possible.

ALM partnered with CreativeOne Direct, in Westford, Mass., to create the package: a letter from ALM’s president telling the story of a young girl who lost her hands to leprosy, but if ALM had helped her in time, she would have been cured. The package also included a clear poly bag with photos of healthy hands performing simple tasks, a single sock (created by Kmart), and a challenge asking the donor to make a fist, then place the sock tightly over their hand, and try to perform one of the simple tasks without the use of their fingers.

The “Can You Open…” major donor sock campaign yielded a $277.86 average gift, a huge number considering part of the file was lapsed. The test cost under $50,000.


U.S. Navy Women In Non-Traditional Ratings Campaign U.S. Navy Recruiting Command Millington, Tenn. Online The U.S. Navy Recruiting Command’s latest recruitment campaign proved groundbreaking for the Millington, Tenn.-based group. By marketing non-traditional, “cool” career opportunities to young women, the Navy made great bounds toward changing misperceptions of women in the military.

The group targeted females, ages 17-24, post high school but not currently attending a four-year college or university. The Navy worked with Campbell-Ewald Advertising, in Warren, Mich., on the overall strategy of depicting the job opportunities available to young women in the Navy. With the idea that this group lives and breathes online, the media strategy consisted of a 100-percent online campaign.

The Navy developed the Web experience, “Just for Women,” showcasing young women engaged in challenging Navy careers, making a difference, and living exciting lives. Five banner ads were developed for placement on sites frequented by the target. Each depicted a photo of a young woman in the life stage the visitor might currently be in, for example a waitress or student, which then rotated into a picture of a similar young woman in a Navy uniform.

A 12-second clip of a young female explosive ordnance diver, talking about her daily job in the Navy, was also created. At the end of the clip, the viewer could fill out a lead form to receive additional information. Two emails were sent to purchased names, with an electronic reply form and a free fulfillment video, “Full Throttle.” Cost-per-lead (CPL) buys and search engine marketing to drive traffic to were also used.

Banner placement ads generated 223,166 click- thrus to the “Just for Women” section on The lead generation results exceeded the goal of 6,700 by 400 percent in just 90 days. CPL buys generated more than 90 percent of the gross leads, and the emails received a 0.04-percent response rate with a gross eligible lead conversion rate of 95.11 percent. The roll out cost was between $250,000 and $500,000.  NPT


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