Charities putting the virtual world to rights

Human rights charity Amnesty International has drawn on technology to enlist the help of millions of people from around the world in its attempt to free Amina Lawal, the Nigerian mother sentenced to death by stoning.

Lawal has her appeal hearing today (Wednesday) and Amnesty has used a viral e-mail campaign to ask people to sign and forward an online petition. According to the latest statistics from Web traffic specialist Hitwise, traffic to – the site linked to the e-mail – has increased by 150 per cent in Australia, by a staggering 700 per cent in the UK and by 880 per cent in the US, since the beginning of August. Amnesty hopes its efforts will persuade the Nigerian government to grant mercy and free Lawal.

Hitwise UK general manager Simon Chamberlain says: “This viral campaign by Amnesty International has had a clear and measurable impact and has spread awareness of Lawal’s plight, as shown by the increased use of Amnesty’s Australian site.”

Chamberlain adds: “The use of the internet by charities is becoming increasingly advanced. The benefits of the cost-effective calls to action, the potential for instantaneous response and the ability to reach people from around the world have been used to great effect, as this case demonstrates.”

Meanwhile, the British Red Cross has appointed internet customer relationship marketing (eCRM) specialist and software company RedEye to gain a deeper understanding of the behaviour of visitors to its site, The aim is to increase online donations and encourage a pattern of repeat contributions.

The charity will initially use RedEye’s website visitor identification and reporting tools to analyse the paths visitors follow online and understand what leads people to certain areas of the site, as well as how people come to make a donation. This process will enable the British Red Cross to identify which areas of the site aren’t working as well as they could, and to implement any changes needed to improve the overall visitor experience.

In addition, the British Red Cross will use RedEye’s campaign reporting and analysis tools to study which areas of its marketing spend are most successful in driving visitors to the website.

The British Red Cross plans to build a new digital communications strategy around the RedEye findings. This will include a new website designed to meet visitors’ exact information requirements, together with the prospect of a tailored e-mail communications programme providing donors with personalised information relating to the progress of campaigns to which they have donated, or other stated areas of interest.

The charity’s long-term vision is to turn its website into a personalised and interactive information portal for donors, with features such as a system for checking individual donation records.

“This is an exercise in understanding what site visitors want and ensuring that we deliver,” says British Red Cross new media strategist Robin Moore. “By investing in eCRM technology, we will make significant cost-savings in the long run.”

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