E-Mail's Measurability Key to Youth Group's Sept. 11 Anniversary Event

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Champions of Hope, a Sept. 11-related nonprofit, is set to begin the first of a three-phase e-mail push aiming to get young people worldwide to participate in a "United Day of Service" on the first anniversary of last year's terrorist attacks.


The first drop of the online-only campaign is scheduled to go to 750,000 U.S. addresses supplied by database marketing firm Naviant Inc. Included is a selection of adults involved in youth services -- Boy Scout leaders, for example -- who are likely to reach prime prospects for the effort.


MindArrow Systems Inc. is the e-mail marketing services provider for the effort.


Billed as the largest community service project in history, the United Day of Service will try to get youths to sign up for one of five projects: Freedom Carwash, where they sponsor car washes to raise money for firefighters, police and rescue workers; Freedom Lives, where they plant trees as memorials; Freedom Harvest, where they collect food for food banks and shelters; Freedom Readers, where they perform as yet unspecified projects to raise literacy awareness; and World Peace Project, where they raise money for vaccinations for children around the world.


MindArrow will maintain a database of respondents segmented by the five projects for ongoing communication and to stage a similar event in 2003 and beyond.


"Using e-mail is going to enable them to identify and track every aspect of this initiative, from interest level [before] the event all the way up to how many times they should speak to the person and what information they need to get to them," said New York-based Jeanniey Mullen, chief marketing officer at MindArrow, Huntington Beach, CA.


A similar prospecting effort is planned for Hong Kong next week. E-mail drops in the UK and France also are planned, but dates have not been set. Two more U.S. prospecting drops are scheduled in August.


Other similar youth-aimed projects usually rely on print ads, fliers, posters and other non-trackable media and, therefore, can't gauge interest beforehand, Mullen said.


With e-mail, for example, Champions of Hope will be able to send downloadable coloring books explaining how to plant trees to younger children who sign up for the Freedom Lives project. Conservation nonprofit American Forests was working with two unnamed large U.S. retailers on Champions of Hope's behalf to get saplings donated for the effort.


"You've got to reach kids where they are, and you've got to be able to measure it in order to be able to expand it," said Melissa Helmbrecht, founder/CEO of Champions of Hope, Washington. "If you give a kid a brochure about an event, he's not going to pass it along to his friends, but if he gets a really cool e-mail, he might send it to 20 of his friends."


Champions of Hope also has partnered with Youth Service America, a nonprofit that has been putting on a similar event, National Youth Service Day, every April for 14 years.


"September is the beginning of the school year ... so we're trying to create a year-long conversation with kids from Sept. 11 to April with these two events as bookends," Helmbrecht said. "We're [also] trying to expand it, and use technology to measure it."


Youth Service America is the largest consortium of youth services organizations in the world and will promote the Sept. 11 event through them, she said.


This week's e-mail will not solicit donations, but subsequent e-mails may if recipients inquire about ways to do so, Mullen said.


Also as part of the effort, Regency Cinemas has agreed to distribute 1 million CD-ROMs containing a game that aims to drive viral registrations.


Champions of Hope evolved from a similar project that was formed after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. Dubbed "Day of Hope," it was celebrated twice on the April 20 anniversary of the shootings.


"We did this thing at Columbine and our hope was to never have to do it again," Helmbrecht said. "Now rather than being naive and thinking we'll never have to do this again, we're creating a nonprofit organization so that we are ready to respond and we keep the coalition strong."


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