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Arthritis Foundation Picks Merkle for Data Strategy

The Arthritis Foundation replaced Epsilon, Boston, with Merkle Direct Marketing Inc., Lanham, MD, to handle a $3 million to $5 million DM account over three years.

Merkle's fundraising services group competed with about six agencies finalized by the Atlanta-based foundation. Sixty agencies were involved in the nine-month search and bid process.

“The Arthritis Foundation was looking for a more data-driven approach to their marketing,” said David Williams, president/CEO of Merkle. “Most of their strategies had revolved around qualitative, creative-driven strategies. We have a more analytical, quantitative, data-driven strategy.

“It's not to say that creative isn't important, but both of these are necessary to improve marketing performance.”

The foundation adds to Merkle's portfolio of clients like Dell Inc., DirecTV, Nationwide Insurance, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Heart Association and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The agency posted billings last year of $60 million.

The Arthritis Foundation specifically tasked Merkle to boost membership numbers and donor contributions. It will offer strategic consulting, custom database development, copywriting and creative, program execution and analysis.

The agency's fundraising services group has started its strategic engagement with the foundation. It also will use its Fundraising Knowledge Center, a database marketing service that helps in campaign management.

Mailers are to break this quarter in time for the holidays. The target market will be large. About 70 million Americans suffer from arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Founded in 1948, the foundation is the world's largest nonprofit contributor to arthritis research. Its 150 chapters nationwide offer education and community programs and raise funds. The Web site at www.arthritis.org is a critical element of the outreach effort.

“The mandate is to improve the performance and ability to raise funds more efficiently,” Williams said. “All these major nonprofits peaked in efficiency and performance back in 2000. The economy peaked, and these folks peaked with it, and they've been struggling to obtain that performance they had in 1999 and 2000.”

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