Cover Story: Food for Lucinia
Toddler Lucinia hides behind her sister, Netla, and coyly peeks at the camera with one dark mahogany eye. But when Netla shifts to the right, Lucinia is revealed and smiles shyly directly into the lens for a fraction of a second before looking away.
It's a moment anyone who's met a toddler for the first time knows and holds dear. But those six seconds are the only ones in the five minutes of video from Food for the Poor that may feel familiar. This toddler lives in a swamp in Prolonge, Haiti, and is among the sick and starving children helped by the Coconut Creek, Fla. charity.
Direct response television (DRTV) can tell Lucinia's story in a way that no other direct marketing channel can. That's why Food for the Poor started using DRTV for fundraising in 2011, says Angel A. Aloma, the nonprofit's executive director.
"Even for our regular donors, when they see a program on television," says Aloma, "unlike direct mail, they're seeing a more three-dimensional person, the poor themselves and the way they're walking and talking and looking for food in a garbage dump. And, although we can describe it in words, when they see it on video, they see the mother crying ... It becomes a stronger motivator when they get a piece of mail to answer back and to send a donation."
Even before considering the disconnected cross-channel impact of the nonprofit's DRTV, Aloma says this direct marketing channel he tested in 2011 has already had a trackable effect on Food for the Poor's donations via Web and the call center, as the program's call to action sends prospects online and to their phones (opens as a PDF).
Widely released in 2012, the 58-minute television program hosted by actress Cheryl Ladd immediately surpassed the charity's fundraising goals, Aloma says. Although the television program requested $19 a month, the average gift came in at $21. Among the 40 percent who gave once, the donations were much larger—about $60, he says. Aloma's expectation that DRTV revenue would grow as time went on became a reality during the first quarter of 2013. Plus, the desired outcome—that most of the donors stay long-term—continued.