CAMPAIGNS: Fund-raising - Sampling a good cause

Client: Select Marketing Group (Chandler, AZ)

Client: Select Marketing Group (Chandler, AZ)

Client: Select Marketing Group (Chandler, AZ)

PR Team: O'Connor Communications (Northbrook, IL)

Campaign: The Giving Back Pak

Time Frame: March - April, 2000

Budget: dollars 6,000

It's never too early to teach good philosophies. Remember the one that says it's better to give than to receive? Easter Seals, the nonprofit group that provides an array of services for people with disabilities, wanted to get that message across to children. The group's agency, Select Marketing Group, a Chandler, AZ-based firm that specializes in sampling product programs, faced two challenges: Firstly, to help one of its largest corporate sponsor's supermarket chain, Safeway, which has raised dollars 65 million for Easter Seals, boost fund-raising efforts. Secondly, to increase the nonprofit's name recognition with a younger audience.


SMG came up with The Giving Back Pak, a modish, playfully designed, brightly colored box with images of children, including one in a wheelchair and another on crutches, decked out in sunglasses and full of goodies to appeal to the six- to 12-year-old set.

The pack sold for a dollars 1.99 donation that would benefit Easter Seals, and included Gummy Bears, Fruitlings, Rice Krispies Treats and Sweetarts, as well as coupons for other food, candy and household items worth dollars 50.

The Back Pak seemed like a winner on several fronts. Preliminary research by SMG showed that several campaigns, such as Trick-or-Treat for Unicef or the Big Help, sponsored by Nickelodeon, where children pledge to donate time to community activities, including cleaning up neighborhoods, were big hits.

To sweeten the deal, SMG decided to reward the children with treats.

Furthermore, SMG had a client base of consumer packaged goods manufacturers who would be interested in reaching that demographic and their parents in a 'feel good way,' says Debbie Usery, president of SMG. Research also supported the importance of cause-related marketing when it comes to product purchases. Nearly 80% of those polled in a Cone Communications and Roper Starch Worldwide survey said they would switch brands and retailers to support a cause they cared about.


To get the word out, SMG turned to O'Connor Communications to handle national and advertising/marketing media. Press releases detailing the concept were sent out in March. Follow-up press releases and samples of the back paks and photos were sent after the promotion that ran in March and April.

The products were packed at Easter Seals work centers that employ handicapped and disabled adults. Participating companies picked up the tab for labor and other costs. Safeway employees manned the tables and sold the back paks in stores in California, Phoenix, Portland, OR, parts of Colorado and DC.

Easter Seals also marshalled its volunteer resources to visit schools, PTAs and others to talk up the program.


The goal to raise dollars 500,000 for Easter Seals was not met. 'We were hoping for dollars 750,000,' Usery says. A stronger ad budget to help get the word out would have helped. 'It's hard to get attention in supermarkets,' adds Usery.

And SMG learned an important lesson about timing. It launched the program to coincide with Easter Seal's fund-raising period, but perhaps the concept would have done better in September, when children go back to school, says Usery.

Media coverage included The Arizona Republic, The Sacramento Bee and a slew of smaller papers, trade publications like P-O-P Times, Promo and Supermarket News. Television stations such as Fox in Phoenix, NBC, CBS and ABC-affiliates in Eureka, CA covered the story.


SMG has trademarked the Giving Back Pak. Year two is being planned, be it for Easter Seals, which has first dibs, or some other charity. Says Usery, 'Our intent is to do it again on a much larger scale - to go national.' At press time, Easter Seals expressed uncertainty about future involvement.

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