Asian Relief Gets 40,000 UK Donors in First Year, looks to France, Sweden

BETHESDA, MD – Asian Relief, which runs children's villages in four countries, added 40,000 British donors to its rolls in the first 14 months of prospecting in the UK and plans to test Sweden and France later this year.

The charity, founded in Korea in the mid-fifties to care for orphans of the war, expanded its fund-raising from the US to Germany 20 years ago and has built up a German donor list of 500,000 names.

It moved into the Benelux countries several years ago where it now has 300,000 donors in the Netherlands and another 150,000 to 200,000 in Belgium, putting their European list close to a million names.

Campaigns are strictly direct mail, Joe Vita, the charity's international development director, said. He credits contacts made through what is now the Federation of European Direct Marketing (FEDMA) for his success.

“I'm a member of FEDMA and made business contacts through them. They have an international fund raising workshop held outside Amsterdam where you can meet people from all the European countries.”

From them he learned about production, computer service bureaus, list brokers and got a list of attorneys who specialize in marketing and direct mail.

“We used that network of lawyers to incorporate in different countries and set up foundations in each country according to local legal requirements.” The EU, he noted, has made such requirements more uniform and easier to fulfill.

In Belgium Sopres/Jottrand supplied lists, while in the Netherlands Wegener Direct List Services provided the names. Last year Wegener acquired majority control of the Belgian firm.

The two companies arranged swaps with other organizations to leverage and build Asian Relief's donor files. Saturn and PSI helped with database and fulfillment management.

Asian Relief's creatives are done in Maryland by Sister Michaela Kim who succeeded the charity's founder, Father Aloysius Schwartz, after his death in 1992. “With minor cultural modifications we use the same text in each country,” Vita said.

In Benelux the charity uses a marketing agency to help with production services, to line up lettershops, artists and to translate copy. Country managers check for accuracy. In the UK “we work with HLB on the list side.”

Asia Relief raises money for a string of children's' villages in Korea, the Philippines and Mexico. A village is due to open in Guatemala this year. It currently cares for 19,000 children.

“Primarily we help children who cannot afford to go to high school. They come to our live-in high schools and get a complete education and vocational training. When they are finished we help them find jobs and a place to live.”

Originally founded as Korean Relief the agency changed its name to Asian Relief when the Philippines government and church officials asked Father Schwartz to open a village there.

“When we went to Mexico in 1990 we decided not to change our name again, at least not in the US,” Vita said. But in Europe the charity is now known as “World Villages for Children,” a name it will test in the US.

The move to expand beyond Germany was prompted by rising financial needs as Asian Relief moved into new territories. Vita is very pleased with initial UK results.

“We're real pleased to be at 40,000 after only a year. And Belgium is pretty good for a country of that size. Why it's like mailing into Vermont.”

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