Broadcasting Benefits: Telethon as Outreach
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Broadcasting Benefits: Telethon as Outreach

July 25, 2010

For several years, the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA), an NCOA-funded Benefits Enrollment Center in Ohio, has been a managing partner in a coalition of local agencies focused on benefits outreach and enrollment.  As one strategy in its Access Your Benefits (AYB) initiative, the coalition hosted a telethon to encourage persons to call in and receive a quick screening that would connect them to AYB partners to offer further assistance with benefits applications and enrollment.

Who was the target audience?

Older adults potentially eligible for public benefits programs

What did they do?

The telethon emerged out of a longstanding relationship with the local NBC affiliate, which continues to be cultivated by one of WRAAA’s enrollment centers, Fairhill Partners, who served as the lead agency in this effort.

WRAAA AYB developed a 3-question survey (based on the BenefitsCheckUp questionnaire) to quickly assess whether callers were potentially eligible for benefits or required some other form of intervention. The local NBC station advertised the event ahead of time, offered airtime interviews to AYB partners, and during two time slots – afternoon and evening – allowed staff from WRAAA AYB to answer calls directly.

To most efficiently respond to the high volume of calls, surveys were organized by zip code, so that partner agencies could follow up after the event and assist with applications in their area. At the time when the phones were closing, the station televised the local assistance number (United Way, First Call for Help, 2-1-1) for those who missed the telethon to be able to call in and receive assistance.

What was the result?

About 700 persons were deemed initially eligible for benefits based on the short survey forms; all of these were followed up with in order to complete applications as appropriate. An additional 1,000 calls were received after the telethon on the 2-1-1 assistance line. And thanks to the initial telephone survey, WRAAA’s AYB partners were able to assist many more callers who did not qualify for benefits to access other appropriate resources in the community.  

The telethon not only served as a free marketing tool, but it also put WRAAA AYB partners in touch with thousands of potential consumers who may be eligible for a number of benefits.  As only one strategy in a multi-pronged outreach campaign, the telethon helped WRAAA AYB to connect with individuals who might otherwise not have been familiar with public benefits programs.

For more information

Marlene Stoiber
Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging
925 Euclid Avenue, Suite 600
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 292-9798


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