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  ONLINE FUNDRAISINGPat Porth Web Sightings

Canadian FundRaiserSpectacular use of Internet also repositions brand

For a sample of really innovative use of the Internet – both to raise funds and to amend the organization’s brand in the public minds – readers might care to visit www.saveourclimate.ca.

The site is an offshoot of World Wildlife Fund Canada and marks the third major targeted, specific campaign for the organization in this fiscal year (July to June).

Leaving aside the spectacular graphics of the site, one of its outstanding characteristics is the vivid sense of urgency it engenders in the visitor’s mind. Flat out, the site virtually demands the public donate $2 million by the end of June. It counts down the days to that date in the corner of the site, further underlining that need to Donate NOW.

The home page is a lovely picture of an arctic landscape, 80% beautiful blue sky, the rest ice floes and lake. The message is that there will be no arctic soon if Canadians don’t act to support WWF’s campaigns for the public and government to take immediate action on climate control.

Fastest warming

Visitors are told: “Canada’s arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. In the past 50 years arctic temperatures have increased by 3B to 4B C. One million acres of sea ice have already disappeared. Polar bears are drowning, starving to death and facing extinction.

“Even if we curbed our greenhouse gas emissions right now, we would still have to cope with the impacts. Extensive droughts, frequent floods and hurricanes and extinctions are already upon us.”

As unique as that driving sense of urgency is the incentive to donate – anyone who gives $20 to the cause has his/her name, or the name of a family member or friend, added to the site, flying through the home page sky along with a choice of 14 phrases (some samples: Our planet is worth it, I will make a difference, Blue skies forever, I am the solution).

In addition to the request for donations, the site asks visitors to sign a petition, to be sent to the “federal Minister of Natural Resources”, whose identity, of course, was unknown when the site went live January 16.

Bad record

It states: “Canada has the second-worst per capita energy efficiency record in the world, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Upgrading and expanding the energy efficiency standards for everything from appliances to equipment to lighting would make it much easier – in fact automatic – for all of us to conserve energy, save money on our energy bills and fight climate change.”

This strong emphasis on overall climate change as the message is core to the rebranding exercise which is the “other half” of the site’s objectives (in addition to fundraising), says Pam Davis, Director of Marketing at WWF-Canada.

“We have a problem with our brand,” she says. “We’re repositioning it. So we’re doing two things at the same time. That’s really important. If we weren’t working on our brand as aggressively as we are, we might be doing things a little bit differently.”

WWF is widely seen as the guardian of “the cute and cuddly”, she explains, a fact which has narrowed its appeal severely. In fact, it is now and has always been all about broad-based conservation and environmental enrichment. “An outcome of our work is the safety of the cute and cuddly,” she says, “but that’s an outcome, not our beall and endall.”

Broader story

The broader story is there for all to read on the site, with three pages of “solutions” to the climate change crisis, described as “simple in principle, although challenging in practice”.

Each donation, it says, “gives WWF-Canada the power to fight climate change on your behalf at local, national and international levels: help Canada conserve energy, advance green power, transform Canada’s energy policy, phase out coal-fired electricity, prepare for some inevitable effects of climate change, help companies protect the climate, conserve forests.”

The organization is already working on many of these fronts, says Davis. One project is consumer-oriented – it wants to convince the federal government to set mandatory energy efficiency standards for appliances, so consumers would not have to rely on voluntary labelling to inform them which to buy.

It is also looking at new sources of green power and supporting industry efforts in that regard, including encouraging companies like Bullfrog Power, “the first 100% green electricity provide in Ontario”.

Work with the Ontario government to help phase out coal-fired plants will, it hopes, provide a model it can take to other provincial governments in the future.

WWF-Canada is working with communities in the north to help them work out health and livelihood issues affected by the changes.

Not sexy, but urgent

“So, there’s a wide range of things we’re doing which are necessarily complex and frankly kind of boring to talk about for the average consumer,” says Davis. “It’s not very sexy and it doesn’t feel very urgent, but it absolutely is.”

To drive people to the saveourclimate site, WWF-Canada has worked with its agency of record, FCB Toronto – which also created the site – to develop PSAs for television, radio, and print as well as highlighting it on the parent site, www.wwf.ca. (Ads can be seen on the site.) All stress the theme of how complex fighting the effects of climate change is, so complex the average citizen feels helpless faced with the challenge – but if s/he will support WWF, it can do what s/he can’t.

“We work hard to provide good creative,” says Davis, “so they’re happy to run our PSAs. It’s very important to us that our creative is very good, because it makes it attractive to the production community to work on the ads and make them something they’re proud to have in their portfolios. They need to get satisfaction and value out of working on our business, because they’re certainly not making any money.”

This goal spawned yet another highly unusual (unique?) element of this campaign – its development was blogged by Davis and Bill Baker, Vice-President and Business Director at FCB, from late December through mid-January (as at this writing).

Real insights

The blog, which was run in co-operation with Marketing Magazine at www.marketingmag.blogspot.com, is funny, very human (“have I mentioned that I’m exhausted”, it’s two days before Christmas and “I am in my office with my dog at my feet and Christmas carols playing on the radio”), but very insightful into the ins and outs, highs and lows of last-minute organizing for a major campaign launch, and the inevitable downer after, even when it was successful.

We hear about the panic over obtaining the CN Tower as the venue, changes in date and time, the loss of a junior creative director, the intimidation of guiding some high-profile attendees at the launch through the daunting logistics of the Tower, “the dark hours of silent introspection” with 48 hours to go, the initial freezing of the web site as President and CEO Mike Russill introduced it before the assembled media and VIPs.

We even get insight into a picture many fundraisers and marketing directors can relate to – getting the president on track to make the right impression:

“Had a chat with the prez this morning about his speech. We need a rousing, emotional delivery. Not his usual style. Talked to him about something he said to me when we were reviewing the direct mail copy.

“He said that all the work that WWF has done over the past decades – protecting forests and oceans and our endangered species work – will be lost if we don’t stop climate change. That brings it home. Talking about that gave him a real spark. He’ll do what we need him to do.”

Immediate response

After the launch, Davis expresses some disappointment with the level of media coverage of the campaign, but recognizes the election dominated the press and airwaves. But she notes that the names started going up in the sky immediately, from all around the world, so the message was getting through, and “we keep receiving a great deal of very positive and enthusiastic feedback from people who have seen and/or used the site.”

WWF-Canada’s previous two campaigns were Do Not Drill, petition-only to stop the US from drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (“we won,” says Davis, after the Senate voted to stop the project), and Stop the Net, to regulate fishing to reduce the damage to endangered species, a combination of petition and fundraising.

With Stop the Net, Davis says, more people signed the petition than donated. With Save Our Climate, more people are donating than signing the petition. “I think it’s the fact the donation mechanism is so compelling, that it actually gives someone a reason aside from the philanthropic aspect to donate,” she says. “It’s just so cool.”

For further information: Pam Davis, Director of Marketing, WWF-Canada, 416/484-7730, PDavis@wwfcanada.org, www.wwf.ca, www.saveourclimate.ca; Bill Baker, Vice-President, Business Director, FCB Toronto, 416/483-6225, ext 441, bbaker@canada.fcb.com.

 
Canadian FundRaiser
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