Fundraising PR: Reaching to US to help fight slavery

Client: Christian Solidarity International (Westlake Village, CA)

Client: Christian Solidarity International (Westlake Village, CA)

Client: Christian Solidarity International (Westlake Village, CA)

PR Team: Lawscomm (Denver, CO)

Campaign: US awareness of emancipation of slaves in Sudan

Time Frame: May 1, 1999-December 31, 1999

Budget: dollars 9,000

Yes, there are still slaves. Human rights organization Christian Solidarity International (CSI) hired Lawscomm as its agency of record to expand US media relations and educate the American public about slavery in Africa. The Switzerland-based group maintains its US headquarters in Westlake Village, CA.

CSI says it has freed tens of thousands of slaves in Sudan by paying Muslim captors a ransom of dollars 50 per slave. Despite UN criticism of the practice, CSI wanted to increase awareness of its efforts in order to raise money to redeem additional slaves and provide them with medical assistance. Lawscomm's challenge was to reveal the atrocities of the slave trade to the American public.


To appeal to US citizens, Lawscomm had to increase the quality of the organization's media and educational materials and shift the focus away from the more graphic images and copy used in Europe.

'In the US you have to be really gimmicky,' says Theresa Perry-McNeil, CSI's PR director. 'Here you have to be pulling on people's heart strings.

In Europe you don't have to do that.'

'We didn't want to be too flashy because of the issue,' says Lawscomm account manager J.D. McCartney. 'It was challenging because US donors are used to slick brochures.'

The team decided the most effective strategy was to arouse an emotional response by focusing on happy endings after slaves are redeemed. 'We wanted to have people do something about slavery,' said McCartney.

'A limited budget guided our strategy,' said McCartney. 'The only things we felt we could really concentrate on were media relations and the Internet.'


Slaves are commonly released in groups of 500 or more. Each time groups were redeemed, Lawscomm sent out a press release stressing the positive outcome and focusing on individual stories.

In addition, the agency distributed 5,000 direct mail packets - which included a letter, a call to action, a brochure and pictures - to donors and prospective donors at churches and schools. It then worked to place three articles written by CSI leaders who are experts on the issue of slavery in Africa.

Finally, Lawscomm revamped CSI's Web site, linking it to related sites, and staged media events at Denver public schools after a local teacher championed the cause. Sen. Thomas Tancredo's (R-CO) appearance at an elementary school event prompted TV coverage on all local stations.


Coverage resulted mostly in the dailies, the medium most amenable to the in-depth problem in Sudan. Stories appeared in The Detroit News, The Denver Post, and The Boston Globe. Newsweek also wrote a piece. TV stories turned up on NBC, CBS and Nickelodeon.

Direct mail brought in dollars 10,000. Good Shepards Church in Boring, OR donated dollars 85,000 after learning of the cause via the media coverage. Total US donations allow CSI to now buy 3,000 - 5,000 slaves at once instead of only 800 - 1,000. More than 20,000 slaves have been freed since Lawscomm's involvement.


Lawscomm is no longer CSI's agency of record, but will continue to work on the organization's US Web site.

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