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US Charity Sets Up Virtual World in 'Second Life'

21 May 2007 at 3:38 pm
Staff Reporter
The American Cancer Society has taken a giant leap forward into the virtual computer world as it prepares to set up its office in the realms of 'Second Life'.

Staff Reporter | 21 May 2007 at 3:38 pm


US Charity Sets Up Virtual World in 'Second Life'
21 May 2007 at 3:38 pm

The American Cancer Society has taken a giant leap forward into the virtual computer world as it prepares to set up its office in the realms of ‘Second Life’.

If you think this sounds like science fiction keep reading.

A US 3-D interactive company called Infinite Vision Media (IVM), is about to create a virtual headquarters for the American Cancer Society in the popular 3D virtual world known as ‘Second Life’.

‘Second Life’ is a 3D online world with a rapidly growing population from more than 100 countries, in which the residents themselves create and build the world which includes homes, vehicles, nightclubs, stores, landscapes, clothing, and games. Users create their own characters – called avatars – who build a virtual world, bustling with commerce, social interactions, and civic activities.

The Second Life grid is a sophisticated development platform created by Linden Lab, a company founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale, to create a revolutionary new form of shared 3D experience.

Drew Stein, chief executive officer of IVM, says it is important for the Not for Profit community to have at its disposal the level of Second Life marketing and networking expertise that corporate brands enjoy.

He says the 3D web space offers marvellous opportunities for organisations to build community that expands their mission to a global audience.

The American Cancer Society’s virtual headquarters will include office buildings complete with presentation and meeting rooms for cancer education sessions, a staffed link to the Society’s National Cancer Information Centre, fundraising components, and green space and gardens that will showcase user-created art as an expression of the personal fight against cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has been testing out the Second Life technology through its signature annual fundraiser called ‘Relay For Life’.

Stein says one of the challenges for any Not for Profits looking to develop a presence in a virtual world is the ability to demonstrate the effectiveness of that approach to potential funders in government and in corporate philanthropy.

Randal Moss, the American Cancer Society’s manager of futuring and innovation-based strategies says by building and opening a virtual headquarters in Second Life, the Society will be able to provide cancer information to more than 5 million Second Life residents and engage them in the fight to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.

Randal Moss says ACS is not the first Not for Profit organisation in a virtual world.

However he says the ACS is certainly the largest charity currently operating in Second Life and by way of example, ACS raised the most money and attracted the most volunteers during its signature online fundraiser Relay For Life.

Other Organisations taking on the virtual world include Global Kids, UNESCO, Leukaemia Lymphoma Society, CARE International and a number of others are about to get involved. Even the US Centres for Disease Control is involved in virtual worlds.

But does the move into the virtual world suggest that there is a much younger audience keen to ‘cure cancer’ or to be involved in ACS’s mission?

Moss believes that the growing number of Relay For Life events on college and high school campuses is a better indicator that the youth are picking up the cause and are willing to raise money and awareness.

He says since the Virtual World is reasonably anonymous ACS is not 100% certain about the age demographic of its Second Life volunteers, aside from the fact that they are over 18.

ACS says the move into the virtual world does not mean traditional supporters are being ignored.

Moss says the organisation is dedicated to making the engagement process as easy and meaningful as it can for all volunteers and donors.

He says ACS will always maintain its efforts to keep successful programs successful and build up new programs to service new donors and volunteers and feel that the organisation can continue to provide them meaningful engagement and attract new supporters at the same time.

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