Nonprofit Reaches Gore Through Viral Efforts

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The ripple effect of viral marketing has recently helped The Heritage Forests Campaign (www.ourforests.org), Washington, a nonprofit group dedicated to saving unprotected wilderness and forest, build a database of nearly 200,000 people from an original direct e-mail campaign of only 60,000.


In the past seven weeks The Heritage Forests Campaign has been working with Technology Project, Washington, to get Web users to fill out electronic postcards addressed to Al Gore and e-mail them directly to the White House. Those who fill out the postcards are then asked to forward the message to a friend.


"We make it easy for Americans to speak directly to the Clinton administration about an issue they want action on," said Heritage Forests spokeswoman Sarah DiJulio. "In less than a minute, Americans can send a free paperless electronic postcard asking Gore to protect the last roadless areas in the National Forests."


She said the Web now allows organizations to contact people in a fraction of the time compared to what would have taken months of canvassing, mail appeals and phone outreach.


The Heritage Forests Campaign, obtains lists from member groups like Audobahn Society as well from Technology Project.


"The e-mail describes how much land we are hoping to save," DiJulio said. "The message also contains a link back to our site where they can fill out the electronic postcard."


The pre-written postcard can be edited by a user and personalized before being sent. After it is filled out, the user hits a send button to deliver it.


Once a person is entered into The Heritage Forests Campaign database they are sent a thank you message asking them to forward the message about the campaign to friends and are invited to become virtual volunteers. DiJulio said there are several thousand people to date who have agreed to become volunteers.


DiJulio said so many people are quickly taking part in the campaign because of its ease and enjoyment.


"The Web is a fun thing for people to use," she said "They can do it right from their desks at work or at home."


Plans for follow-up mailings have not yet been planned because the organization doesn't want to make people feel like they are being harassed.


"We are weary of sending people a lot of mail that they don't want to receive," she said.


The organization is also getting help in spreading its message from Juno Online Services, New York. It has been posting a message about the organization on the startup page for millions of its users with a link to www.ourforests.org. DiJulio said the organization has not yet been able to determine just how many people who have taken part have come through either the direct e-mail campaign or from the Juno program.


Other sites also have donated remnant inventory banner ads to the organization allowing them to be seen on a wide array of sites. The sites include: Aint-it-cool-news, Blue Mountain Arts, Egroups, ESPN, Mr. Showbiz, theglobe.com and Lot21 Interactive Advertising.
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