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Omaze the Force be with you

The season is finally in full swing. No, not the holiday season, Star Wars season — and among the myriad of brand partnerships and teaser trailers, one piece of content stood out. We couldn’t help but be charmed by a video showing a number of Star Wars fans being surprised over Skype by none other than Hans Solo himself, aka the actor Harrison Ford.

In the video Harrison partnered with the team at Omaze to announce that two winners and three of their friends could win the chance to attend the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London or LA, meet the Star Wars cast and walk the red carpet. Reactions ran the gamut of emotions from laughter through to tears of joy — what’s more, this was to support 15 causes nominated by the cast and filmmakers of this latest addition to the Star Wars story.

Omaze is an online fundraising platform that is revolutionizing the philanthropic space by giving people the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences that also support social missions. We caught up with SVP of Marketing, Helen Melluish to find out more about the company’s history, how they are using Skype to create content — oh, and whether they could get us tickets to the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere (they couldn’t).

As Helen explains:

“Omaze was founded in 2012 by Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins. They came up with the idea after attending a benefit gala hosted by former NBA star, Magic Johnson. He auctioned off the chance to sit with him courtside at a Lakers game and afterwards join him for dinner. They combined their money to make a $500 bid, but the prize was auctioned for $15,000. On the ride home they realized there must be millions of Lakers fans worldwide who would happily pay $10 for a chance to win this experience, and in doing so more money could have been raised and more awareness could be garnered for the cause.”

Since then Omaze has gone on to run over 100 campaigns, worked with over 100 charities and has received donations from 160 countries. The experiences that donors can win are so special that they are barely believable; ride a bike and get ice cream with Bono, have your portrait painted by James Franco, play ball with Steph Curry… whatever it is, Omaze has you covered, and what’s more, it’s for a number of great causes.

Yet their biggest campaign to date was, perhaps unsurprisingly, their first Star Wars campaign, as Helen explains: “A little over a year ago, we teamed up with Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot to support the launch of Star Wars: Force for Change, an initiative inspiring people to make a positive impact on the world around them. We offered the chance for one lucky fan to visit the closed set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and have a walk-on role in the film. Together, Star Wars fans and the Omaze community raised over $4.2M for UNICEF Innovation Labs.

Omaze uses Skype in a number of fun ways, one exciting example Helen describes:

“Skype is how we tell our contest winners they have won. The reactions are priceless. There’s every emotion you can imagine when you tell someone they are going to meet Bono, or attend the premiere of Spectre with Daniel Craig.”

For as little as a $10 contribution made through the Omaze fundraising platform, participants are automatically entered for a chance to win and to help incredible causes. Helen explains:

“Today, only 6% of funds are donated online in a $240bn market. Our mission is to use the power of storytelling and technology to radically change charitable giving. We want to make giving fun, easy and accessible for all.”

To find out how you can support great causes and be in with a chance of a life changing experience, visit Omaze.com.

Have an exciting way of using Skype in your broadcast work? Let us know on Twitter or drop us a line at media@microsoft.com.

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