Many charities experimented with new approaches to their 2003 year-end Internet fund raising, with some seeing gains over online contributions in 2002.
Two nonprofit organizations that process online donations for other charities saw significant increases in the amount of money moving through their systems at the end of 2003 compared with the previous year.
Gifts made through Network for Good, a San Francisco organization whose online giving site allows donors to contribute to any charity in the United States, totaled $4.7-million from November 16 to December 31, up from $3.2-million during the same period in 2002.
Groundspring.org, a San Francisco group that processes online donations for 650 charities, handled $697,672 in contributions in December, more than twice the $300,910 it processed in December 2002.Salvation Army
At individual charities, some venerable fund-raising traditions got an infusion of new technology for the holidays.
The Salvation Army rolled out its Online Red Kettle program nationwide, after testing the concept in Atlanta, Dallas, and Washington in 2002. Volunteers who signed up to be virtual bell ringers had their own Web pages from which they could send e-mail messages asking their friends and family members to make an online donation.
The organization also brought its Angel Giving Tree program to the Internet. Visitors to the campaign's site could read descriptions of needy children on tags displayed on the electronic tree, select the ones they wished to help, and then purchase gifts for them.
The donations and presents went to the Salvation Army closest to the donor's home, unless the donor directed it elsewhere. The organization is tallying the results of the campaigns, and expects national totals to be available in February.
In Canada, the Salvation Army brought new technology to its real-life kettle volunteers.
In addition to collecting spare change and bills from holiday shoppers, a handful of bell ringers in Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba were outfitted with wireless card scanners that allowed people to make gifts to the Salvation Army using credit or debit cards.
"It was an experiment to keep people engaged with the organization and to raise the profile of the Salvation Army within our community," says Capt. John P. Murray, public-relations director for the Salvation Army in British Columbia.
The organization equipped a kettle volunteer with the hand-held device outside a large bookstore in a trendy, high-traffic area of Vancouver a week and a half before Christmas. Captain Murray says the amount of money donated through the card scanner was negligible, less than $200, but the news-media exposure the organization received made the test worth the Army's while.
He believes that to get a true sense of whether donors want to give using the new technology, the organization needs to have more machines and use them over a longer period of time. The Salvation Army plans to have three scanners in use in Vancouver during the 2004 holiday season, Captain Murray said.Online Toy Drive
At Volunteers of America, the Sidewalk Santa Web site run by the Alexandria, Va., social-service organization raised $50,000, up from an estimated $10,000 during the 2002 holiday season. The charity, which has used such a site for the past four years, attributes the increase, at least in part, to its efforts to encourage corporations, such as The Hartford, Starbucks Coffee, and Western Union, to provide links to the Sidewalk Santa site from their company sites.
New holiday Internet appeals this year included an online toy drive set up by the founders of Penny Arcade, a Web site about video games, to benefit Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, in Seattle. The organizers say they sought to disprove negative stereotypes of video-game players as violent and antisocial. They set up the site by creating a "wish list" on Amazon.com.
Penny Arcade's readers donated more than $120,000 in new toys and more than $27,000 cash. The toy drive's organizers had to rent a moving van to deliver all of the books, Barbie dolls, Lego sets, art supplies, and -- of course -- video games that were donated. The hospital distributed some of the toys as holiday gifts, and will use the rest as birthday presents and in its playrooms, outpatient clinics, and regional locations.Alternatives to Presents
Other online efforts encouraged people to look at charitable giving as an alternative to traditional holiday presents.
As part of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Gift of Life campaign, donors could choose among five projects, including an anti-poaching program in Malawi and efforts to clean oil-soaked animals after spills, when making gifts in the name of a friend or family member.
The Internet campaign raised $12,000 for the Yarmouth Port, Mass., organization. Average gift size was $58.
While the fund sent a Gift of Life appeal to its own e-mail list, it was surprised to find that 149 of the 183 people who made gifts as part of the campaign were new donors.
The fund attributes the campaign's success with new donors to two promotions through companies that advance environmental awareness.
It paid to send the appeal to people who expressed an interest in animals and the environment when they registered with Care2, a shopping site that sells environment-friendly products and promotes charities.
The fund also bought an advertisement in the December e-mail newsletter of Red Jellyfish, a Mountain View, Calif., company that sells Internet and long-distance service and donates a portion of the proceeds to rainforest-conservation projects.'Christmas Gift Amnesty'
In the United Kingdom, a cheeky Internet campaign urged citizens to donate more money to charity during the holiday season.
For the last two years, the Giving Campaign, a London organization dedicated to promoting a stronger culture of giving, has made a year-end appeal urging donors to practice tax-wise giving. Hoping to shake things up a bit, the organization developed a provocative new awareness campaign, the Crap Christmas Gift Amnesty, to encourage people to replace "rubbish gifts" to co-workers with charitable gifts to worthwhile causes.
"There is a tradition here of giving presents to your colleagues at work around Christmastime," says Peter Gilheany, communications manager at the organization. "Generally those presents aren't of great value or of much use."
So the Giving Campaign conducted an online survey asking people what was the worst present they had ever received from a co-worker.
The organization used the answers -- which included a garden gnome, a worm farm, and a bag of onions -- to create an Advent calendar on its Web site.
Each day featured an offending present, which visitors to the site could click on to see how the money spent on the gift could have been put to better use. The £5 cost of a hole punch, for example, could have been used to supply 80 liters of purified water in a developing country, or the £10 spent on a line-dancing tape could have bought five blankets to keep homeless people warm this winter.
Six national newspapers and two national radio stations covered the Crap Christmas Gift Amnesty campaign, and numerous companies and charities spread the word about the amnesty to their employees and supporters. The Royal Bank of Scotland included the calendar on its intranet and pointed employees to the bank's charity of the year.
Copyright © 2004 The Chronicle of Philanthropy
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