In December of 1999, Weber Shandwick Worldwide (Shandwick) was hired by eContributor, a new start-up that had developed an online fundraising solution.  When Shandwick’s Washington office was hired, eContributor needed everything from an initial press release announcing its formation to innovative advertising geared toward attracting new clients to strategic counsel on positioning itself among its primary target audiences -- the nonprofit and political worlds.  

Shandwick’s challenge was to build the six-person company’s reputation from the ground up and attain eContributor’s goal to be the recognized leader in the online fundraising industry.  In order to achieve this end, Shandwick developed a comprehensive public relations plan that integrated the techniques of media outreach, executive visibility initiatives, advertising and new client and advisory board member solicitation.


At the beginning of the development of the public relations campaign, Shandwick conducted preliminary research on eContributor’s competitors, Internet access, usage of online fundraising, trends in philanthropic and political giving and perceptions of online fundraising.   The most important findings of our research were that:  

1.      Although there are a number of players in the online fundraising arena, eContributor’s offering is unique because its services are less expensive and more comprehensive than those of its competitors (e.g., eContributor’s technology is compliant with FEC and IRS regulations for political and charitable contributions).

2.      Traditional methods of fundraising, including telemarketing and direct mail solicitations, are becoming less effective.

3.      Many organizations had not considered online fundraising as a method to solicit donations.


Shandwick’s public relations objectives were to:

·        Position eContributor as the preeminent source for online fundraising for 1) nonprofits and charities; 2) political candidates, political action committees (PACs) and political organizations; 3) universities and alumni associations; 4) faith-based organizations; and 5) membership associations;

·        Promote understanding of eContributor’s distinct market offering among target audiences;

·        Educate the media about the role of online fundraising and its value for target audiences;

·        Support the acquisition of new clients and strategic members of a board of advisors.


Primary target audiences included the media, the nonprofit community and the political community.  Secondary target audiences included the educational community, faith-based organizations and membership associations.  Tertiary audiences included potential partners and investors.  


Shandwick determined that the following approach would enable us to enhance understanding of online fundraising and to position eContributor as the leader in the online fundraising arena:

·        Develop a media strategy to target national and regional dailies, broadcast outlets, online publications, new economy press, national and regional tech trades and specialized media (e.g., philanthropic trades, educational trades, political trades.);

·        Develop an executive visibility campaign to introduce eContributor’s senior executives as leaders, visionaries and industry experts;

·Develop an advertising strategy and creative concepts that would highlight how eContributor helps to improve the organization-donor relationship and the benefits of the company’s technology;


·        Create a program for new client and strategic board of advisors acquisition, in which Shandwick would set up meetings with key decision-makers representing nonprofits, charities, faith-based organizations, the corporate sector, Presidential libraries, etc.


Shandwick’s strategy was to cut through the competitive clutter and build the buzz about eContributor by creating unusual, attention-grabbing pitch angles and press materials for use in media outreach; developing effective advertising for specific audiences; and leveraging partnerships, new client and board member acquisitions to garner additional publicity for the company.


Shandwick compiled solid key messages that defined eContributor among its target audiences; developed a media strategy that was targeted toward dailies, broadcast outlets, online publications and specialized media; conducted on-site media outreach at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions; and created press kit materials for key media outlets and publications.  

In order to enhance the visibility of eContributor’s senior executives, Shandwick wrote bylined articles on their behalf, publicized their speaking engagements and developed media interview advisories, which positioned the executives as leaders, visionaries and industry experts.

Shandwick became the creative force behind eContributor’s advertising and collateral materials.  We created two sets of ads—one aimed at political organizations, candidates and PACs and another aimed at the nonprofit community.  We also created uniform collateral materials that could be used in customizable sales kits.  Components of the sales kit included an overview sheet describing the company’s capabilities and coordinated template sheets.

In addition, Shandwick created a unique program for the acquisition of new clients and a strategic board of advisors.  In carrying out this program, Shandwick set up meetings with key decision-makers from nonprofits, charities and the political arena.  


The implementation of the tactics described above generated highly successful results.  Since December of 1999, Shandwick has garnered 59 interviews, 37 of which resulted in coverage from premier outlets such as the Associated Press, Chronicle of Philanthropy, CNNfn’s “Street Sweep”, The Hill, National Journal, Newsday, Nonprofit Times, NPR’s “Future Tense," Roll Call, U.S. News and World Report, Wall Street Journal Interactive, the Washington Business Journal, the Washington Post and as well as two online chats with

In addition, a bylined article appeared in a newsletter published by the American Society of Association executives, and another article is slated to appear in Campaigns & Elections magazine.

Furthermore, as part of its new client and board of advisors acquisition program, Shandwick introduced eContributor to 13 top-tier organizations such as the Salvation Army, WETA (PBS) and the Smithsonian Institution, and to two of eContributor’s highest profile board members—a leading Republican leader and a political activist who worked for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.
Finally, eContributor’s sales figures have increased at an extremely rapid rate, and its client base has also expanded at a rate of 20 percent per month since December 1999.  Since its establishment in November 1999, eContributor has acquired 380 clients, putting its client acquisition at 242 percent ahead of plan.  Given the amount of positive publicity garnered for eContributor by Shandwick, it is clear that the success of Shandwick’s public relations plan played an integral role in eContributor’s exponential growth.