The Make A Wish Foundation attracts donors with first national campaign

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The Make A Wish Foundation of America launched its first national fundraising campaign several months ago and the results were better than it could have hoped for.

There are more than 60 Make A Wish chapters across the country and each typically sponsors its own efforts to find volunteers, raise money and encourage people to donate needed resources, such as air miles. The organization uses more than three billion miles a year fulfilling the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Big-name sponsors like Disney, Frito-Lay, 3M and Amtrak soon started lining up to help with those efforts once word started getting out that Make A Wish was conducting a national campaign.

"[After 27 years, the Make A Wish foundation] wanted to provide our chapters with a vehicle to unify their efforts and something that sponsors could get behind," said Mike Pressendo, director of brand communications at Make A Wish Foundation, about the national campaign.

The central theme of the campaign, which launched in June, was that everyone, not just celebrities, has the power to grant a sick child's wish. The Kaplan Thaler Group, known for its work with Aflac, donated all the creative.

Donated advertising space enabled the Make A Wish foundation, Phoenix, AZ, to put its message on the side of buses in several cities, on the televisions inside elevators in buildings around the country and even on Niagara Fall's Maid of the Mist. As a result, the organization generated 1.3 billion media impressions in just 30 days. Last year, it took the Make A Wish foundation 12 months to generate over 1 billion media impressions.

However, even before Make A Wish launched the campaign, the organization made a similarly significant step by preparing its Web site for the anticipated increase in activity.

"We realized that before we start drumming up a lot of public interest in helping Make A Wish, we needed to think about what we can do to capture that interest," Pressendo said.

With this in mind, the foundation and Digital Pulp Inc., its interactive agency, launched a new section on the Make A Wish Web site at www.wish.org. Called "Ways to Help," it serves as a centralizing hub for people who are interested in helping out. Disney is the sponsor of the new section.

"Overall, Make A Wish is better leveraging the Web for communicating, finding volunteers and bringing in donations," said Gene Lewis, partner and director of Web development at Digital Pulp Inc., New York.

Previously, the Make A Wish Web site directed people who wanted to volunteer to their local chapters. After putting the application for volunteering up on the site earlier this year, however, Make A Wish received more than 9,000 offers within the first 30 days. Its four-year goal for the national campaign is to sign up 20,000 volunteers.

The new section also makes it easier for individual chapters to post their needs - which might include a formal dress or prepaid calling cards. Now, people can type in their ZIP code and find out what the needs are of the chapter in their area.

In other areas, the Web site's shopping element has been integrated into the section and shopping at participating retailers is better identified as one of the ways to help out. The section for donating frequent flyer miles is now showcased more prominently than before, as this is such an important need for the organization.

A new addition to the site, which appears in the Ways to Help Out section, is the Adopt-A-Wish program, which allows donors to fund a single wish experience in its entirety.

The next step for the Make-A-Wish foundation will be to continue to use the Web to better connect the chapters with the national office by giving each independent office the opportunity to leverage technology made available by the head office, and create a regional Web site that is more seamlessly integrated with the national one.

The chapters will be able to pick from a number of different templates that are brand-compliant for their own Web sites. They'll also be able to include a link on their own Web sites to a promotion that a national donor is sponsoring. N

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