Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Non-Profit Groups Turn Promotional Eyes to Web

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Non-Profit Groups Turn Promotional Eyes to Web

Article excerpt

While retailers and publishers sweat for the secret to making a buck on the World Wide Web, nonprofit groups are merrily using their sites to recruit, convert and solicit.

"It's like putting up 10,000 billboards for free," said Elizabeth Rose, the Web page designer for Independent Sector, a Washington group that promotes philanthropy.

The Sierra Club offers 10 tips for boycotting an oil company, from the high-minded, "Hold a candlelight vigil," to the practical, "Drive less."

The Dallas-based American Heart Association, to lighten its grim roster of stroke symptoms and warning signs, includes a photo of a potato shaped like a Valentine heart, submitted by the group's Arizona chapter. "But oddly, a real heart looks like an eggplant," the page says.

Young parents raised on McGruff the Crime Dog can tap into the public service messages on the Advertising Council's site to see what Scruff, his 3-year-old nephew, is telling the new generation about drugs, guns and bullies.

Many Web pages tout what's cool, but one of Second Harvest's food banks, in San Jose, Calif., offers "What's Hot" hints for a successful food drive, including a raffle.

Requests for contributions are a staple of nonprofit sites, but Second Harvest says it can take food "on pallets, in totes, in bins, or by the case," and suggests gifts of "cash, stock or estates."

Some officials think groups are overestimating the Web's potential to lure donors.

"It's being far oversold for its state of development," said Kevin Ronnie, the field director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group based in Washington. "Fund-raising is historically a phenomenon of face-to-face contact."

But considering the low cost of Web appeals, the return can be dramatic. The American Red Cross added updates on hurricane damage to its site in September, and found that the page generated 30 percent of that month's calls to the group's toll-free line. Most of those callers offered contributions. …

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