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The People Behind the Cause

RADDically Increasing Public Awareness about Road Safety

Erin Meluso
President of RADD

RADD is the Entertainment Industry’s Voice for Road Safety. An internationally recognized nonprofit organization, founded in 1986, RADD pairs celebrities, media partners and socially conscious sponsors to create positive attitudes about road safety. RADD uses music, sports, celebrity spokespeople, media access and sponsors’ communication channels to heighten awareness about the importance of safe and sane driving. Designated drivers and seat belt usage are two of the main focuses for RADD.

Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of people ages 1-33. RADD’s target audience (young adults between 21 and 34 years of age) is at great risk. This group represents approximately one-third (28%) of licensed drivers, yet their age bracket 21-34s accounts for over one-half (53%) of alcohol-related crashes. These young adults also frequently engage in other reckless behaviors, as do teens, RADD’s secondary focus. RADD’s goal is to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by irresponsible driving across all age groups.

Questions & Answers with Erin

How did you become involved with RADD and how has it impacted your life?

I’m very fortunate to be one of the rare people in traffic safety who hasn’t suffered a personal tragedy. My background is in youth marketing. I was initially recruited by the Chairman of RADD to serve as a pro bono consultant on marketing and licensing issues. Over a period of time I became more involved. I officially joined RADD in 1993 as Managing Director and now oversee RADD as the President. Service is a tradition in my family and marketing is something I love to do. I find it extremely fulfilling to sell with a purpose. Best of all, when you are selling road safety, the “bottom line” is lives saved.

What’s different about a publicity-driven charity than a service oriented nonprofit?

RADD doesn’t solicit the general public to fund our public awareness and education programs. We seek out enlightened corporations and brands that want to reach a specific audience which RADD also wishes to target—youth, teens, sports fans, etc.. Together, we co-create “cause-presence” marketing programs. These programs use the private partner’s resources and RADD’s upbeat, music-driven celebrity messengers to impact millions of people. We also work closely with the US Department of Transportation, individual States and private foundation partners on grant projects that further our mutual road-safety interests.

Can you describe a particularly exciting moment you've experienced with RADD?

RADD’s product is Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for radio and television. In 2002 alone, donated air time for RADD PSAs totaled 7 million dollars. Our success was largely accomplished through gifts of time volunteered by our wonderful celebrity roster. The combination of the amazing number of celebrities who donated time and the large audience that RADD spots reached, earned RADD the US Department of Transportation’s “Public Service Award”. Highpoints for me were accepting the DOT award on behalf of RADD and attending tapings of, PSAs by Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, and Mark Anthony. I’ve enjoyed their music for years, so it was great to be able to thank them in person for supporting RADD.

How has RADD been so successful in securing celebrity support for its cause?

RADD was founded as a media outreach organization with a membership that was exclusively comprised of celebrities. RADD is now the largest celebrity endorsed cause in the world. Back in the mid 1980s a group of radio promotion executives were sitting around in the San Francisco area when the news service announced a terrible car crash where teenagers were killed. One of the promo execs said, “We have celebrities coming through here all the time, taping radio station ads. Why don’t we just have them record the phrase, “Don’t Drink and Drive”? That’s how RADD was born!

Can you give other nonprofits some hints about seeking celebrity spokespeople?

Be creative, patient, and network like mad. Poll your members to see who has contacts. Look for celebrities who have personal relationships with your members and key sponsors. Best of all, seek out high profile people any who may be touched by the cause.

Don’t just focus on national celebrities. Many of the most successful fundraising events center around local celebrities – news anchors, politicians and captions of industry. People in your community may be willing to pay top dollar for an opportunity to interact with local luminaries at an exclusive pre- or post- event gathering.

-- DeWayne Lumpkin

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