Sesame Workshop's new cross-channel emphasis

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Educational nonprofit Sesame Workshop has begun using a forward-looking mutichannel approach to fundraising. Through a combination of unique online campaigns and podcasting the 30-year-old-plus organization is reaching out to individual donors via the Web. Through most of its history, funding came from the sales of licensed products, grants and corporate sponsorships. Individual appeals began in 2004.

"We want to be able to connect with people to tell them about our missions and garner support," said Carol Leister, director of the annual fund and assistant vice president of philanthropic development at Sesame Workshop.

While awareness of what New York-based Sesame Workshop does is high in the US, the organization is not as well known internationally.

"There are locally produced Sesame Street programs in 120 countries around the world and this is what we're looking for support for," Leister said.

Sesame Workshop partnered with Kintera Inc., San Diego, a year ago to help improve its online efforts, which were previously handled in-house, with the goal of better engaging donors in its mission.

In August, Sesame Workshop brought online a popular tribute program that allows people to make a donation in someone's name and send that person a Big Bird feather as a tribute. Now, donors have the option of sending an e-mail message or printing out a card and mailing it, letting Sesame Workshop send the feather.

It is also exploring unique ways to use the Internet to connect with fans and potential donors.

In September, weekly Sesame Street podcasts were launched that are available on the Sesame Workshop Web site or at the iTunes Store. In one week, the podcasts became the most downloaded video on iTunes.

Next, Sesame Workshop is looking to integrate its mail and online campaigns wherever it can, Leister said.

Already, all of its direct mail features either the organization's Web site or specific URLs where people can donate. By the end of the year, there will be an e-mail component to all of the direct mail fundraising campaigns.


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