In the days and months following 9/11, a time that saw unprecedented levels of selfless- ness and compassion across the country, David Paine still felt there was more to be done.
The president of Paine PR sat down with friends and fellow PR executives to figure out where they could best put their skills to use in mending the broken nation.
"I think we all realized immediately that perhaps the best way to honor those that lost their lives would be to rekindle that sense of unity," says Paine. They decided they would channel their efforts into making 9/11 into an annual day of service to remind people of the sense of togetherness and patriotism they felt that day.
The wounds from the day were still fresh, but Paine, who would go on to act as president of a program that would come to be known as One Day's Pay (ODP), had faith in humanity's inherent desire to help. "It's almost a natural connection," he says, "because that's how the nation responded to 9/11."
The effort started off with a huge boost in the form of pro bono assistance from several PR firms, including Paine PR. Initial surveys and various pilot tests were launched in 2002 to get a feel for the public's desire to observe 9/11 as a voluntary day of service, the results of which would be used to gain support from potential influential groups.
ODP was fortunate enough to get an early endorsement from the Points of Light Foundation and immediately began building a coalition of organizations to support the movement. After the network was set up and the word got out, it was up to the public to take it from there.
"There's something about the idea of observing 9/11 by doing something good for someone else that resonates with a lot of people on an emotional level," says Paine.
ODP decided to help facilitate opportunities for people to engage in service through their website. Once on the site, www. onedayspay.org, people could pledge to the initiative and then follow links to nonprofit organizations that had agreed to partner with the program. The site also asked people to post their plans and stories, which ODP could then refer to local reporters. That would get the national media involved, which would then get more people to participate. "It was the kind of pay-it-forward initiative that could spread on its own without a lot of effort," explains Paine.
More than 450 local nonprofit organizations signed up to partner with ODP last year, and the number is expected to double this year. Fourteen 9/11 family organizations have signed statements of support, and this year's number of participants is hoped to double to 2 million.
In a lot of ways, ODP could have just been an internet service, but Paine and company took it further. Once settled, it helped companies to organize volunteer opportunities for their employees. It has continued to manage the publicity effort by working with national and local reporters to provide the angles necessary to make it broadcast-ready. "We had a good national story and we were able to localize it," says Paine.
For this year's campaign, ODP hopes to earn the support of Congress to pass a resolution that would encourage President Bush to designate 9/11 as a national day of service. Ten leading companies have agreed to participate in the initiative, including a sizeable donation from JP Morgan Chase. One Day's Pay is looking toward a long-term plan by making presentations to corporations as possible sponsors for next year.
If the program can raise the funds, it will put together school-lesson plans and a national PSA campaign to reach what would likely be hundreds of companies and the millions of people those businesses employ.
PR team: One Day's Pay and Paine PR (Irvine, CA)
Campaign: One Day's Pay ("one day's payment of service")
Time frame: July 14, 2004, to September 14, 2004
Budget: About $350,000