World of Knowledge Foundation

International Community Marketing: Affinity Marketing

Prepaid Phone Cards: Ruth Nelson

America’s Promise

AT&T Foundation

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 2, 1998. All rights reserved.

Foundation with an Affinity

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World of Knowledge Foundation

When your alma mater pleads with you to use its credit

card — or even a paid telephone card — affinity marketing

is at work.

A newcomer to Princeton’s foundation world, the Forrestal Village-based

World of Knowledge Foundation is riding the tide of this latest trend

in charity fund-raising. It receives funds through a Florida-based

telemarketing firm, International Community Marketing, which has various

affinity or "cause marketing" projects.

"Our mission is to support education in America’s culturally diverse

communities," says Janice Burg-Levi, executive director and one

of three employees at the foundation.

Since it opened its purse in September, 1997, the foundation has given

away more than $200,000. It could continue inching along at that rate

— or it could grow astronomically. "If you look at how the

Ronald McDonald Foundation started," says Ruth Nelson, a Dallas-based

consultant (http://www.brvc.com), "a blue chip company decided there was a way to have

direct input in how its money was distributed and they choose the

demographics they wish to target. That is a marketing strategy that

makes a lot of sense."

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International Community Marketing: Affinity Marketing

ICM specializes in such affinity marketing (http://www.icm.com.

To thank current AT&T

customers for their loyalty, and to prevent another firm from "churning

the market," ICM tells customers that AT&T will contribute up

to five percent of their long distance bills to the World of Knowledge.

Before the foundation was organized, ICM had more than 900 affinity

causes, from the New York Chinese School to the Bosnian Relief Fund

and the India Pakistan Friendship Association. Though some generated

enough cash to make worthwhile donations, others got only small amounts.

When these small associations contribute to one umbrella organization,

it will help them have greater impact, Burg-Levi suggests, and it

will also help the telemarketer.

"If you offer a product or service and link it with cause-related

marketing, the customer will more than likely think twice before they

switch," she says. "It is a retention strategy and everybody

wins."

Burg-Levi declines to say whether AT&T is ICM’s sole client or how

much of ICM’s business AT&T comprises. In addition to revenues generated

by ICM she also expects to do traditional fundraising through direct

mail. "Since we are a new foundation all our funding comes from

ICM, but we are getting some good traction and are about to start

soliciting donations from others as well," she says.

Affinity marketing for credit cards and phone cards is getting to

be standard, and long-distance sales is just another variation, says

Paul Clolery, editor in chief of the Nonprofit Times (formerly located

in Princeton, now published in Cedar Knoll, New Jersey http://www.nptimes.com).

"It’s

the classic hit-the-nail on the head affinity program. You go to a

university and say, `Get your alumni to sign up for a credit card

and we will give you a piece of the action.’"

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Prepaid Phone Cards: Ruth Nelson

Affinity marketing does work, agrees Nelson, who specializes in prepaid

phone cards. In 1990 a large Dallas department store rejected a bid

from a telecommunications firm to sell these cards. "A year later

I pitched an affinity card for a local charity that they had been

supporting, and they didn’t think twice before saying yes. Nonprofits

drive traffic into a retail store."

Nelson quotes a 1994 study by Roper Starch Worldwide

in which 66 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would be more

likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause. In a

later survey of executive opinions on cause marketing, half of the

executives cited increasing sales as a major reason to be charitable,

but 93 percent thought it would build deeper relationships with customers,

enhance corporate image and reputation (89 percent) and create or

maintain a compelling corporate purpose (59 percent).

The World of Knowledge has affiliated itself with the Foundation Center,

the New York Regional Association for Grantmakers and the New Jersey

Center for Non-Profit Corporations. Burg-Levi says she was hired for

her marketing expertise, and that "more than one person" came

to her to ask her to do this. "Let’s just say I am very well known

in the industry."

Burg-Levi majored in journalism at the University of Maryland, Class

of 1979, and worked for advertising agencies in the District of Columbia

and New York.At AT&T in Bridgewater she had been district manager

for business markets.

"I started from scratch in my basement," says Burg-Levi. She

moved the office to Forrestal Village "because Princeton is the

heart for education" as well as because it is convenient to the

nation’s capital. "I go down a lot for lobbying and dealing with

professional issues." Stacey Pinkstone is director of marketing

and Carol Campbell the administrative assistant.

World of Knowledge grants already completed include $140,000 given

in prizes to undergraduate and high school students who entered essay

contests, $20,000 to schools in Orange County, Florida, and $50,000

to winners of a competition for foreign graduate students. This essay

contest involved writing a letter to a friend in their native county

giving advice on relocating to the United States. To be announced

soon: a web page design program for high school and college students

to trace their family heritage. At http://www.today-tomorrow.org

students can find out about the competitions online.

To be announced this month is "Me, My Heritage, My World: Art

and Photography Competition." Children in three age groups, from

ages five to 14, will draw or photograph themselves, what their heritage

means to them, or (for the older ones) a representation of cultural

diversity. Art experts from this area will be the judges (volunteers,

who receive an honorarium) and the prizes will be savings bonds of

$1,000, $1,500, and $2,000.

Another current project is $100,000 for vo-tech students who concoct

community outreach programs. "We believe that, with funding, students

can use their skills to change people’s lives while developing a marketable

skill," says Burg-Levi. Students in Middlesex County are among

those eligible.

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America’s Promise

Burg-Levi was attracted by the premise for America’s Promise, jump-started

by the volunteerism convention in Philadelphia. It aims to help at-risk

youth, teaching them marketable skills and to "give back"

to the community (http://www.americaspromise.org).

When asked for documents that nonprofits are required to publicly

file (with respect to revenues, expenses, and disbursements), Burg-Levi

said that, since her organization was less than a year old, these

documents were not yet available.

Her board of trustees consists of a former Boy Scout executive and

chief contracting officer of the Panama Canal (Mike Baker), a language

arts teacher and founder of a marketing agency (Lauri Lott), a psychiatrist

who is the clinical director of Scripps Behavioral Health Association

(Hussam Mihtar M.D.), and a finance executive who is charge of the

budgeting and benefits, (Dennis Veccia).

"I do believe we have found a unique niche and have struck a chord

in society with a need that has been unfulfilled," says Burg-Levi.

"The stories we get are incredible. I get E-mail from places around

the world that would blow your mind." Letter writers range from

a nun in Malaysia who wants to earn her PhD to children as young as

10, and they ask for both money and advice.

Several factors could encourage this foundation’s success. The most

obvious is that the Asia and Pacific Rim market is wide open for telecommunications

firms and seems to be a perfect fit for this foundation’s demographics.

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AT&T Foundation

The second, much slimmer, possibility is that somehow this foundation

could end up being associated with the AT&T Foundation, which gives

more than $12 million or 34 percent of its annual grants to educational

charities but does not give to individuals (http://www.att.com/foundation). When asked, the AT&T Foundation

disavowed any connection whatsoever with the World of Knowledge Foundation.

Still, Nelson speculates that the World of Knowledge’s initial low

profile may be part of the strategy, and that only after it is successful

will AT&T identify with it in a major way. "They were quiet about

Lucent at first." And the Ronald McDonald Foundation started out

small.

— Barbara Fox

World of Knowledge, 125-250 Village Boulevard,

Suite 250, Princeton 08540. Janice Burg-Levi, executive director.

609-419-9088; fax, 609-419-9079. URL: http://www.today-tomorrow.org.


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