E-Mailers Rally to Katrina Relief

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E-mail campaigns for donating everything from money to shoes are boosting relief efforts for people affected by Hurricane Katrina. While many businesses were quiet the first days after the hurricane hit, e-mail marketing picked up earlier this week.

KatrinaShoes.org, an organization of shoe companies, churches and individuals, set up its site Sept. 3 with a goal of getting 1 million shoes to victims of the disaster. The group got more attention when it issued a news release Sept. 6, which was then e-mailed among friends.

Christian relief organization Week of Compassion, Indianapolis, took a more measured approach, sending daily e-mails to its 4,500 subscribers since early last week.

"We've not only seen a growth in our [e-mail] list, but we have also seen a bump in the amount of online contributions," said Doug Smith, Webmaster for Week of Compassion, which provides emergency and long-term assistance to people after disasters.

Through the organization's e-mail database, handled by Constant Contact, Waltham, MA, it has sent 65,000 e-mails to current subscribers since the disaster. The group already has raised more than $40,000, which is unusual, Smith said, and one of its e-mails had a 39 percent click-through rate.

"We have raised more money at this point than we had during the tsunami, because of people's comfort level with online donations, the ways that Constant Contact has helped us streamline our tools, and people respond better to [causes at] home than far away," he said.

Meanwhile, Direct Contact Marketing, Laguna Hills, CA, a marketing and sales consulting firm, e-mailed 10,000 prospects in the insurance industry this week, saying it would donate 5 percent of its revenue from new campaigns signed in September to the American Red Cross.

"I took a road trip across the U.S. 10 years ago and spent a couple weeks in New Orleans. And we have a couple clients in Biloxi and Baton Rouge," DCM president Darren Clevenger said. "When this happened, I just felt like I wanted to donate."

In other efforts, Mi8 Corp., an outsourcer of Microsoft Exchange hosting services, said it will offer free services to companies in the affected areas as well as nonprofit and government organizations involved in relief. The company's services include e-mail, contact management and document storage systems.

"As a New York City-based company, we remember well the outpouring of support from Americans following the days of 9/11, and this is our small way of paying some of that back," Mi8 president Patrick Fetterman said.

Some businesses and organizations may have waited until this week to start e-mail campaigns not only because people were "in shock," but businesses likely were determining which organizations to sponsor, said Ryan Buchanan, CEO of eROI, Portland, OR, an Internet, e-mail and search marketing firm.

Last week, he chastised the e-mail industry in eROI's blog, saying the silence from e-mail marketers "has been deafening." Now he realizes they likely were just considering the best course of action.

"With 9/11, the Red Cross was so overwhelmed, there were some wasted dollars," he said.

This week, at least four eROI clients, including Seattle-based Mercy Corps, are conducting e-mail campaigns to raise money and donations of other items.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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