Digital campaigns offer profile upgrades for nonprofits

There's nothing like a community pancake breakfast to raise money and goodwill for a nonprofit. But to stay competitive with changing demographics, nonprofits must keep up with changing outreach methods - beyond all-you-can-eat flapjacks.

There's nothing like a community pancake breakfast to raise money and goodwill for a nonprofit. But to stay competitive with changing demographics, nonprofits must keep up with changing outreach methods - beyond all-you-can-eat flapjacks.

Innovative Web uses in philanthropic communications "really have a strong impact," says MWW Group CEO Michael Kempner.

Last year, his firm worked pro bono on an effort to call attention to the Sabin Vaccine Institute's then-underpublicized "Stop Neglected Tropical Diseases" effort. While the campaign includes both traditional and new media, "digital is critical," Kempner says.

MWW's online push began with StopNTDs.org, a newly designed Web site with streaming video featuring endorsers like Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Jackie Chan.

It also included a viral component: an online petition asking Congress to designate an NTD Day in 2008, and increase funding for NTD control and research. The petition also allowed Sabin to create a database of campaign supporters, Kempner says.

Boston-based Cone also relied on new Web technologies in its work with Climateprotect.org (pictured above), the online home of Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The goal of that site was not necessarily to raise money and awareness, but to "change people's behavior around their carbon footprint," says Brian Reich, Cone's director of new media.

Integrated into all promotions around last summer's Live Earth concerts, the colorful, content-heavy Web site was designed as an "environment where people [can] explore the types of [green] activities that they feel most comfortable with," he explains.

The Alliance site centers on an interactive collage, which allows visitors to explore eco-options according to recognizable images and individual interests, rather than being directed down a specific path, he says.

While it's not unusual for enviro-action sites to offer podcasts, blogs, and videos, providing all these experiences in one place - as the Alliance does - encourages further exploration and strengthens the messages, Reich says.

Key points:

Colorful animations and video can help draw in users of nonprofit sites

Integrating many types of online media content in one, easy-to-use interface can increase click-throughs

Online promotions can be a more cost-effective fundraising method for cash-strapped nonprofits

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