Georgia Postal Service Rallies Support for Breast Cancer Research
The idea was both practical and philanthropic: Why not create a campaign promoting the Breast Cancer Research stamp to raise revenue for the U.S. Postal Service's South Georgia District while also raising money to fight the disease? The district marketing team had never tackled such a campaign, but they didn't let that stop them.
They named the campaign "The Circle of Hope," designed artwork for posters and promotional items, and left the rest to postal clerks. Surprisingly, after only 30 days, the district, which administers mail service throughout the lower two-thirds of the state, sold more than three times as many Breast Cancer Research stamps as it had during the same period of time the previous year. The campaign raised $21,378 in net proceeds, which was donated to the Department of Defense Medical Research Program and to the NIH for cancer research during a ceremony in Macon, Ga., last month.
The U.S. Postal Service issued the Breast Cancer Research stamp, its first semipostal fundraiser, in 1998. For every 45-cent stamp sold, 8 cents go to research. To date, more than 606 million stamps have been sold, raising almost $45 million. "When you emphasize a medical issue like breast cancer - one that has relevance for everyone - people don't mind paying the extra money for the stamps," says Donna Ricks, manager of consumer affairs at the district office.
The marketing team had the idea of using pink circles on which people could write the name of someone they wanted to honor who was affected by breast cancer. They initially printed 50,000 circles for the district's 445 postal locations, but soon had to order more. After customers signed the circles, the clerks mounted them in the post office lobbies. "It wasn't long before there were pink circles from one end to the other," Ms. Ricks says.
She says that the key to this campaign's success has been local postal workers who believe in the cause and help their customers believe in it, too. George Barnhill is one such clerk. A postal employee for more than 40 years, he works alone at the office in Port Wentworth, Ga., a town of about 3,200 people a few miles outside of Savannah. Last October, he sold 306 20-stamp postage sheets. "I've been touched by so many peoples' stories about their experience with breast cancer that this has become almost like a crusade for me," he says.
After such a tremendous success in 2004, the district is running Circle of Hope twice this year, in April and again in October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In less than 3 weeks, the district has sold 113,431 individual stamps. Within the district, there's an informal competition to see which office can sell the most. So far, Savannah is in the lead with close to 700 sheets sold. Meanwhile, Mr. Barnhill sold 179 sheets to his customers in only 2 weeks.
On a larger scale, Ms. Ricks says that Lizbeth Dobbins, district manager, is seeking approval from their headquarters to expand the campaign to a national level. If they are successful, Ms. Ricks says, "You will soon be seeing pink circles in post offices nationwide."