Children's Med Center Energizes Telethon

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Trying to find a way to turn special-event attendees into donors, The Children's National Medical Center joined forces with Great Lakes Communications to create an integrated direct marketing program that increased awareness of its annual telethon and the revenue generated from it by nearly $70,000.

The Children's National Medical Center, Washington, which got involved with Great Lakes, Milwaukee, last year, wanted to get in touch with lapsed donors and raise their interest in the telethon. It designed a program that integrated its existing direct mailing program, its telemarketing campaign and the telethon.

Howard Silberstein, director of promotions for the 128-year-old nonprofit organization, said the first step was to contact all the previous donors who had stopped making donations, "try to get them interested in giving again" and then provide them with information about the telethon. The hospital also challenged its lapsed donors to raise $100,000.

David Downing, senior director of development for Great Lakes, which specializes in providing teleservices for nonprofit organizations, said the program helped bring back 2,200 lapsed donors and, at the same time, created a proven model for other nonprofit organizations to copy.

"It was successful in a number of ways," Downing said. "We drastically increased the viewership of the telethon, brought back a number of lapsed donors and provided other organizations with a concrete example of a program that works. The goal is always to move people up the ladder and keep them in the fold, not letting them get away. This integrated program focuses on doing just that."

The program helped raise more from individual donors than any of the hospital's other previous telethons, which traditionally had received the majority of their donations from corporations. The Children's National Medical Center telethon raised $4.5 million.

"This would be a beneficial program for others to use," Silberstein said. "If you can integrate and then show the donors the significance of the relationship between you and them, it will improve their response to your programs. And successfully integrating your direct mailing and teleservices program creates a win-win situation."

According to Downing, one of the key components of the program was a donor-recognition feature. After callers made a donation by using a credit card, their names appeared on television and they were personally thanked.

"This was a good way to connect with these people," Downing said. "It maximized their interest by validating their experience."

Silberstein said the hospital, which has a database of just under 100,000 people, saw an 87 percent realization on its investment.

"Our goal was to see a 70 percent realization," he said, "and when you make 70 percent that's great, but it's unusual to do 87 percent. That proved to us that the program worked."

The program raised a fulfilled revenue of $56,176, a net income of $10,335 and a pledge revenue of $64,571. It also helped the hospital identify a new revenue stream, better identify donor choice because of the live contact and strengthen the development of the hospital's marketing relationships.

"I think this proved that there is a strategy for every donor," Downing said, "and if you are innovative in your thinking, it provides solutions that can exceed your expectations."

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