Red Cross Looks to Keep Ties With New Donors

As the American Red Cross continues to accept a record number of donations and offers to volunteer in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it hopes to inspire at least some of the new donors to continue supporting its efforts.

“This has been so extraordinary and so unprecedented for us that frankly it's going to be a challenge,” said Bob Le Roy, director for disaster major gifts at the American Red Cross, Washington. “We're very anxious to continue to cultivate these relationships because they are critical to us not only in respect to ongoing financial support but also in respect to volunteer support and blood donations — really, the whole spectrum of programs and services.”

Response has been so massive that Le Roy said there is no way to gauge how many new donors have been acquired or how much money has been raised as of yet.

“That's true broadly in terms of the support that we've received financially, through blood donations and offers to volunteer,” he said. “Within the realm of financial support, it's true for literally each and every one of the ways in which we receive money. I mean, we received over $63 million online, for example. That's so far above and beyond anything that we've ever seen before that there's really no relevant way to compare it to anything from our history.”

The first thing the Red Cross will do to foster further donations is send thank-you letters to all donors, no matter how small or large the gift. The letters also will serve as the tax receipt for the donation.

Beyond that, more than half of Red Cross chapters will begin direct mail campaigns to new donors in December to encourage continued support.

Direct marketing agency Grizzard works with 780 of the Red Cross' 1,300 independent local chapters and will be responsible for the campaigns.

“We're launching a series starting in December to all these first-time new donors,” said Debbi Layfield, executive vice president at Grizzard, Atlanta. “The goal will be to acknowledge and affirm their support of Sept. 11 and to try to convert them to being a local chapter donor.”

The mailings will highlight Red Cross' activities aside from disaster relief, such as keeping families in touch with loved ones in the military and responding to local emergencies. Additional drops will continue through February. Layfield estimated that there are more than 1 million new donors just within the 780 chapters she works with.

While traditional Red Cross disaster donors tend to be older than 55, Layfield said she thinks it has gained younger donors since Sept. 11. She plans to study the changes to the donor list's profile.

Other mailers won't be able to take advantage of the new crop of Red Cross donors, however, because the organization does not rent or exchange its mailing list.

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