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Komen uses new media to make it personal

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Todd Cohen

In 2009, the year after Susan G. Komen for the Cure redesigned its website with the aim of better engaging visitors, http://www.komen.org/ attracted 3.9 million unique visitors, up from 3.1 million the previous year.

In early June, the breast-cancer charity had recruited over 214,000 members at the Facebook Fan page it launched in late 2007, up from 37,000 in January 2009, and had over 788,000 supporters of its Facebook Causes page, with donations totaling roughly $131,000.

Komen, which raises awareness and money to fight breast-cancer, also has attracted roughly 13,000 Twitter followers, up from about 450 when it started Tweeting in September 2008.

And the charity distributes its monthly email newsletter to roughly 500,000 subscribers, up from 112,000 when it launched the newsletter in September 2004.

“We’re really looking at technology as a way to reach a global audience,” says Marty Holtman, program manager for interactive media for Dallas-based Komen. “You have to make it personal for them.”

Making it personal

Breast cancer affects a lot of people, and it is personal.

This year alone, 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with the disease, which kills someone every 69 seconds.

Komen for the Cure, which has invested nearly $500 million in breast-cancer research globally over past 30 years, itself is based on a personal story and promise: Nancy G. Brinker created the organization in 1982 based on a promise she made to her sister Susan G. Komen, who was dying from the disease, to do everything she could to fight it.

So when people visit the Komen site, they want information about the disease, or ways to share their own stories, to give or to get involved, Holtman says.

“We wanted to make our site more about that story and that personal feel,” she says.

Focus on visitors

As part of the redesign of the site, she says, it also was important to give visitors multiple options to give.

“We know our visitors are looking for ways to donate quickly and easily, and we wanted to make that as transparent for them as possible,” she says.

Also critical for Komen is the ability to track visitors to its website — including which pages they visit, where they are coming from, which other sites may have referred them, and what their key interests are – as well as followers and feedback to its social-media sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

Continually promoting a consistent message and ways to get involved also is key, Holtman says.

Relationships, loyalty

Nonprofits faced with limited resources and looking for the most effective investment they can make in technology to support fundraising could target “low-hanging fruit,” such as setting up a Facebook page, Holtman says.

But nonprofits just getting started with technology also should recognize that using technology to engage donors and prospective donors “requires constant attention,” she says.

“You cannot let your online presence become static,” she says. “You want those sticky eyeballs.”

With 125 affiliates, including three abroad, Komen maintains a tight editorial calendar that coordinates online and email information and promotions, and ties them to its races and other initiatives.

“We want to make sure we are able to message our audiences, yet be respectful of them in terms of email promotion,” Holtman says.

“The goal is that all pieces of the puzzle work toward the same mission,” she says, “and that they work symbiotically.”

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