National Park Foundation Names MC Direct

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The National Park Foundation, created by Congress to serve as the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service, has named MC Direct, Virginia Beach, VA, as its direct marketing agency of record on an estimated $1 million account.

More than 10 agencies responded to the foundation's request for proposals, of which four were interviewed. There was no incumbent because the foundation so far has lacked a direct marketing program.

"The objective is to increase awareness of the foundation and what they do in comparison with the rest of the people," said Suzanne Cole, executive vice president at MC Direct.

"They're tapping a database of donors and supporters via direct marketing and also trying to increase the sales of the national parks [membership] pass for the National Park Service," Cole said.

The foundation's traditional role is to raise funds for the National Park Service through donations. The park service maintains 384 national parks.

Tactics employed by MC Direct for its latest assignment will include direct mail, e-mail, a Web site and an 800 number.

Besides for-profit companies like Bank of America, Intuit, Microsoft Corp. and Lucent Technologies, MC Direct's roster also includes a host of nonprofits.

For instance, the agency's Virginia Beach, VA, office handles the Smithsonian Institution Contributing Membership Program, Washington; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, also in Washington.

Founded in 1987, the agency has headquarters in Poway, CA, a suburb of San Diego.

Agency billings last year were $32 million. This year's billings are expected to be considerably higher because of recent wins such as the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Wells Fargo and the National Park Foundation.

For the foundation, MC Direct's marketing addresses a particular challenge.

"This is a launch, so it is to determine a base mark for all of the marketing channels and expand on them," Cole said.

Plans call for a mail drop of 300,000 to 500,000 pieces. Targets of this mailing are based on files of mission-based donors dedicated to conservation and preservation. American Airlines' frequent-flier members also will receive appeals offering miles for donations.

The campaign's theme centers on the preservation of national parks.

"There's a lot of organizations out there that spend money on conserving national parks," Cole said, "but the National Park Foundation doesn't go about it in a pessimistic way -- 'Look at what's happening to the parks!'

"We're more focused on the positive aspects," she said, "providing an opportunity to every visitor to have a memorable experience."

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