In The Spotlight
In May 2000, Michael J. Fox, best known for his starring role in “Back to the Future,” retired from his role on the ABC television show “Spin City,” and formed The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. From its inception until 2005, the foundation raised nearly $70 million. As a direct result of Fox’s efforts, Parkinson’s
disease research has taken a sharp upward turn, and now his foundation is even driving the development of a genome map of the disease.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research proudly reports its efficiency: 84.4 percent of income is directed to research-related activities; 3.3 percent is dedicated to operating costs. The remaining 12.3 percent is set aside for development and fundraising. This means approximately $8.6 million was spent by the foundation to promote itself, raise public awareness about Parkinson’s disease and sponsor activities aimed at increasing contributions. And, it is safe to assume promotional products played an active role in these campaigns.
Celebrity involvement has helped charitable causes gain momentum, according to Cheryl Gallagher, director of marketing at Starline U.S.A., Grand Island, N.Y. Celebrities have always had their causes, but today’s 24-hour, always-connected-media means celebrities “are more visibly involved,” Gallagher said. The celebrities have adapted to the times and now “they’re using their celebrity status to benefit the charities; to try to get people involved,” she said.
Mass media, however, is good at spotlighting small facets. Judging by media coverage, one would not know how many public charities exist in the United States (850,455*) or their reported revenues ($1.1 trillion*). The opportunities are available, so how can distributors capitalize on them? One of the most prominent liaisons between the promotional products world and the non-profit sector is Pat Fisher, president and CEO of Hartleigh Creations, Los Angeles. “The easiest thing for [distributors] to do is talk to their existing clients,” suggested Fisher. She said distributors should ask existing clients about any charities they work with or support, and then see if the client would like to partner for a promotion.
“Most corporations need to give money each year to charity,” said Fisher. These companies will generally have a budget set aside for charity work and fundraisers, which opens a huge door for distributors. If a corporation is going to donate money or products to a charitable cause, it makes sense it would want to promote its
company as well.
Nearly every charitable event or fundraiser has an assortment of promotional items for volunteers, donors and participants. Gallagher said the variety of products ranges from very high-end merchandise used for silent auctions or large donor incentives and gifts, to small, inexpensive items used to raise awareness.
To effectively promote non-profits, certain care must be exerted to find an appropriate product, one that will promote both the cause and the organization. According to Fisher, “Charities look for promotional products that generate a positive impact on the mission of the charity and generate additional value for the customer, including education, goodwill and financial [support].”
Gallagher pointed out that these organizations generally stress utility in their promotions. As an example she noted a promotion run by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) on college campuses. The organization gives away keychain quarter holders with the MADD logo and a quarter to motivate people to call a taxi after a night of drinking. “Almost every year we’ve had an order from MADD on that keychain,” said Gallagher.
Non-profit and fundraising organizations need the marketing know-how effective promotions distributors can offer. As they are brought to the public spotlight, these organizations draw more from donors and can better support their causes. It is, in the end, still a worthy cause. With a little effort, any distributor can become a superstar of the fundraising world.
*Source: National Center for Charitable Statistics