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Diabetes Foundation Breaks First Online Campaign

Just days after the American Red Cross said it would suspend solicitations for its primary relief fund, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International yesterday kicked off its first online marketing campaign to meet a $120 million fundraising objective.

Targeted to potential donors ages 25 years and above, the foundation's decision to prospect via the Internet comes at direct mail's expense.

“Last year, 87 cents out of every dollar went directly to research and obviously direct mail is one of the most expensive ways to raise money,” said Daniel DuPont, the foundation's national director of program development.

“We will limit direct mail outreach this year to less than 3 million pieces for acquisition and 7 million overall,” he said.

The foundation's online push comes at an iffy time for such efforts.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks' triggered an unprecedented flood of online donations. The Red Cross is said to have amassed much of its estimated $547 million online. As of last week, for example, a counter on Amazon.com claimed that it alone had funneled $6.9 million to the Red Cross.

And while some would argue that people are now more predisposed to giving on the Internet, charities have been complaining that the outpouring to the Red Cross was coming at the expense of smaller organizations.

But DuPont does not feel that the Red Cross's aggressive mop-up of funds will dent other appeals.

“I think that donors who have been extremely generous to the Red Cross and other relief efforts are also beginning to see that there are many other causes that need and deserve their support and we're confident that our donors can display that same generosity and support,” DuPont said.

Running across an estimated 60 Web sites, the diabetes foundation online effort comprises animated gif banners, skyscrapers, and pop-up windows and banners. Once clicked, ads link prospects to the foundation's site at www.jdrf.org.

Advertising creative is based on stark images of diabetes-affected children from a Grey Advertising public service announcement. The message focuses on a search for a cure to diabetes.

“We're hoping to get people to give a minimum contribution of $10 a month or $120 a year, which compares extremely favorably to our typical direct mail respondent, which averages about $30 a year,” DuPont said.

To elicit donations, the foundation will simply follow in the footsteps of other more Internet-savvy fundraisers.

Visitors clicking through the banners to jdrf.org can post their contact information and elect to contribute on a monthly basis. The donor's checking account or credit card will be debited each month.

“What we're doing is taking that electronics funds transfer, or auto debit paradigm, and marrying it to an effective set of imagery and messages in the banner ad and pushing it through the World Wide Web,” DuPont said.

Sites donating space include AmericanGreetings.com, AOL, CBS.com, marthastewart.com, Oxygen, Yahoo, epicurious.com, Better Homes & Garden, Ladies Home Journal, iVillage, MyFamily.com.

In addition, DoubleClick offered free technology, and 24/7, ValueClick and L90 offered ad inventory across their network.

Grey Global Group's Beyond Interactive, Grey Interactive and MediaCom companies handled the assignment pro bono. The agencies offered services like creative, account management, media and strategy.

“The potential audience for this ad campaign is as many as 60 million people,” DuPont said. “So it's an extraordinarily effective way to reach an audience that could average well in excess of what we realized through direct mail.”

A previous online effort by the foundation was a small viral marketing measure to a limited circle of activists, who passed along messages. This, however, was not a planned campaign on the scale of the current push.

While mail is not a big favorite at the foundation, special events like the Walk to Cure Diabetes and the Ride to Cure Diabetes do not offer enough exposure. Such efforts yield a reach of more than 1 million people.

“If there are 8 million diagnosed diabetics in the United States and each of those individuals has three or four people who are immediately connected to them, they are our market,” DuPont said. “Our potential donor base is much larger, in excess of 30 million people than we're currently reaching now.”

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