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Digital future – Health group’s goals tied to Web

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By Todd Cohen

One of the biggest health charities in the U.S. is staking its future on the Web.

United Cerebral Palsy wants its new $300,000 Web site to be the engine for communicating internally, raising money, enlisting corporate sponsors and carrying out public policy work and public education.

“We’ll get returns many-fold,” says Kirsten Nyrop, UCP’s executive director, “not only in terms of corporate sponsors and individual fundraising, but also in terms of our public visibility, creating awareness about people with disabilities.”

For the past three years, the Web site of the United Cerebral Palsy Association, which serves 139 affiliates in 39 states, has been little more than an electronic brochure that wasn’t even kept up to date, Nyrop says.

But increasing demand to better connect its members, educate the public and generate revenue prompted the group to integrate the Web into its overall business strategy.

One key goal was to help staff of individual affiliates talk to one another and to their boards, and to share lessons from the field.

Equally critical was the need to raise money and recognize corporate sponsors in the absence of the national telethon that UCP has not sponsored since 1998. The telethon had been the main vehicle for raising money and showcasing sponsors.

“If we didn’t have the Web page, we would lose our corporate sponsors because we would not have any other way to recognize them,” says Nyrop, whose organization aims to raise nearly $4 million from corporations this year.

Corporate sponsors will get banner ads that will rotate throughout the site. New corporate sponsor Bank One/First USA, for example, will issue an affinity credit card that will be promoted on the Web site. Visitors will be encouraged to sign up for the card, which will benefit UCP.

UCP also has teamed up with wemedia.com, which is creating a portal Web site that will be a comprehensive resource for people with disabilities.

Each group will market the other’s site and, while developing their own sponsors separately, also will recruit joint sponsors for both sites.

And while UCP continues to collect to money the old-fashioned way at canisters in Circle K stores and TCBY shops, and at local golf tournaments and telethons in 25 local markets, Nyrop has high hopes that the Web can be a growing source of corporate sponsorships and individual contributions.

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