Charitable Site Looks to Increase Response

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Childreach, the U.S. member of Plan International, intends to relaunch its Web site later this month.

Changes include upgrading navigation, regrouping sections and renaming buttons on the home page. Eventually, the site plans to post video clips of day-to-day life in the communities helped by the organization. The group's nonprofit partners bring together American sponsors with needy children and their families in emerging nations.

"More than half our sponsors have access to the Web. We're looking toward the future to maximize the potential of the Web," said Carol Donnelly, communications director at Childreach.

The typical sponsor is a woman age 35 to 40 with an annual household income of more than $75,000 and no children.

"Sponsorship fills a gap in their lives," Donnelly said.

Six hundred people enrolled online in 1999.

"It's not a huge number," Donnelly said. "But it's an extremely low cost per enrollment." Donnelly hopes to double that number in 2000.

The Childreach Web site, at, allows potential sponsors to view photos of the children, read their profiles on the Meet the Children page, click on the child they wish to sponsor and make their initial payment by credit card.

"Using the Web involves the sponsor in more of the decision-making process," Donnelly said. "For someone who is still undecided, seeing the children on the Web makes it more real."

Another advantage of the Web is that potential sponsors can see the children and learn their histories immediately. People who request additional information by mail or by phone are mailed information packets, adding an extra step during which the person may lose interest in sponsoring a child.

The Web site also posts information about the organization, corporate sponsors and the countries where Plan International has programs. The Emergency Fund page allows Internet users to make a donation without the commitment of sponsorship.

"We've actually got a bit too much here. If we got it reorganized, it would be easier to follow," Donnelly said.

The Web site has been designed inhouse, but plans include signing an outside agency specializing in Web design.

Regardless of whether it goes with an outside agency, Childreach plans to continue shifting more of its outreach efforts to the Web.

"It's quicker, more efficient and less expensive," Donnelly said. "Think of the paper. Think of the postage."

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