Where Giving Is Easy
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell, special for MSN
Peg Nichols logged on to her computer and read about the earthquake in
Peru last month, she felt the urgent need to help the victims. With a
couple of clicks of her mouse she was able to do so in minutes.
"Earthquakes really jar me; they're so sudden and unexpected," says
Nichols, a semiretired mediation expert in Olathe, Kan. "I know they
needed the supplies right away, and I knew I was helping immediately."
is a lifelong supporter of various nonprofit causes, but this was the
first time she gave online.Nichols
is not alone. In 2006, online donations increased between 36 percent and
51 percent, depending on the study. On the other hand, off-line
donations increased only by single digits.
people who give online, most of the reasons are obvious: It's quick and
convenient, and donors have the feeling they're assisting with an
immediate need, especially in the wake of disasters.
According to figures provided by the nonprofit
Network for Good, reactions to large disasters in this decade have
dramatically changed the way people give. "After 9/11, 1 in 5 people
gave online; that increased to one-third after the [Indian Ocean]
tsunami; and after Katrina, half of the donations for that disaster was
given online," says Bill Strathmann, CEO of Network for Good, which is
based in Bethesda, Md.
Internet really breaks down the barriers of time and geography," says
Jon Carson, CEO of
cMarket, an online charity auction site in Cambridge, Mass.
people want to give online, nonprofits have stepped up their Web
presence. Most nonprofits send e-letters, or electronic newsletters, to
past and potential donors, for example.
Belcher, a public relations specialist in Miami, has always wanted to
give to charities, but it wasn't as easy as it is now. "I would get a
letter and carry the paper around with me forever and lose it," says
Belcher. "Now, if I find out one of my friends is doing something for
charity, I can just click, pay here, and it's done in less than five
says nonprofits don't even have to send a direct solicitation for money.
"If they just send me a note telling me what they're up to, I'll usually
give even if they don't ask."
Charities are also realizing that the Web isn't just a vehicle for
soliciting donations, but it's a great way to develop relationships with
and among donors.
ability to speed money to the charity more quickly is one source of
satisfaction for donors," says Randy Hecht, who writes about
philanthropy for "Worth" magazine. "But even more important is the
ability to know right away what the organization you choose to support
is doing for the people you want to help."
Virtual Red Kettles
Salvation Army realized the importance of community building when it
developed the Online Red Kettle Campaign in 2004.
campaign is modeled after the traditional Red Kettle Christmas
campaigns. But instead of standing in the snow and cold outside a store,
bell ringers can send e-mails to their friends asking for donations to
an online Red Kettle page. Just like the traditional Red Kettle
campaign, the money goes to the Salvation Army chapter where the
online campaign has been a huge success. In 2005, the first year it was
rolled out nationally, the Online Red Kettle raised $130,812. A year
later, that amount grew to $482,316.
hope it will continue to grow significantly," says Melissa Temme, public
relations director for the Salvation Army National Headquarters in
Alexandria, Va. "It is something people can definitely do together and
adds interaction with our supporters."
up: The Salvation Army is in the process of creating a MySpace page for
"Red Kettle," where donors can interact with other supporters and — the
hope is — make friends with one another.
Charities in a virtual
Taylor, founder of the
Modest Needs Foundation, always wanted to be a philanthropist. For a
decade, he attended college, then graduate school, eventually earning
his doctorate in English. Along the way, he learned to live frugally on
a student's wages, but ran into difficulty a couple of times.
"Friends always gave me small sums of money to help me out," says
Taylor. "When I started teaching college, I thought about how lucky I
was." He told himself that when he was rich, he needed to give back, to
help others as he had been helped.
had an epiphany: "I realized that giving wasn't about being wealthy, it
was about being compassionate," he says.
founded Modest Needs, an organization that donates small sums of money
to people in temporary financial crisis — people who Taylor says don't
qualify for any other assistance but need a hand so that they don't fall
"Without the technology of the Internet, this wouldn't have been
possible," says Taylor. "We deal with thousands of applications per
week. Can you imagine the cost if we had to open all those letters and
make all those calls?"
Needs operates solely on the Internet. Taylor manages a staff of five
people in the basement of a building in New York City. Through his
virtual nonprofit, Taylor not only found people who were in temporary
need of assistance — like he once was — he found many people like
himself who wanted to help out those in need.
puts it, "People were ready for this; thousands of people wanted to be a
Fivecoat-Campbell is an independent journalist and author based in the
Ozark Mountains, where she lives with her husband and four dogs.