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PSA Health Campaign Featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Posted on 10/25/2015

The Chronicle of Philanthropy — Ellen Goodman never talked to her late mother about how she wanted to be cared for at the end of her life and was left scrambling when the time came. She improvised treatment and funeral decisions and hoped that she was giving her mother what she wanted.

Ms. Goodman didn’t want other families to go through what she did. And so in 2010 she co-founded the Conversation Project, an advocacy group aimed at helping people talk about and prepare for their final days with the people closest to them. The questions cover treatment choices, religious preferences, type of memorial, and financial issues.

The group has found a widespread hunger for its services. As proof, she points to its Conversation Starter Kit, a free, online guide, translated into eight languages, that has been downloaded more than 250,000 times, from every state and 176 countries since the charity’s website was launched in 2012.

But Ms. Goodman, 74, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with The Boston Globe, wanted to reach a bigger audience.

A public-service campaign aimed at boosting awareness was “always on our dance card,” she says. However, the Conversation Project, which runs on a budget of about $650,000, could never get a donor to pay for it.

Until, suddenly, it could.

She and Harriet Stern Warshaw, the project’s executive director, were meeting in the spring of 2014 with a family foundation when its officials asked a question charity leaders dream of: “What would you really like money for?”

Two grants of $100,000 later, the Conversation Project is today launching its first-ever public-service-announcement campaign aimed at coaxing people into having frank conversations about death. (Though Ms. Goodman seeks more candor about perhaps the toughest topic of all, she is tight-lipped about who paid for the campaign, saying the grant makers prefer to remain anonymous.)

“We’ve done this survey that showed that 90 percent of people think having conversations about their end-of-life wishes is important, but only 30 percent have had them,” Ms. Goodman says. With the public-service-announcement drive, “we wanted to hit a diverse population and reach people who didn’t usually hear this message.”

Read the full article on The Conversation Project’s new PSA Health campaign.