As Americans across the country rush to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, many are turning to the Internet to make their gifts.
Of the $196.9-million contributed to the American Red Cross, in Washington, by the end of the day Thursday, $110-million came in through the organization's Web site.
Visitors to the search engine Yahoo, which is collecting donations to the Red Cross on its Web site, already have donated more than $35.6-million to relief efforts. Amazon.com is also accepting donations on its Web site, as it did after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the earthquake and tsunamis that struck South Asia last December. So far the online retailer has collected more than $3-million.
Altogether the Salvation Army, in Alexandria, Va., has raised $15-million for its relief efforts, $3.1-million of which was contributed electronically.
As people continue to give, charities are wondering whether the pace of online giving will be as strong for Katrina as it was for tsunami relief.
In the five months following the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, 22 major American charities that responded to the emergency raised a total of $1.27-billion, $311.4-million of which came in through the Internet.
Of the $532-million the Red Cross received after the tsunamis, $116.5-million came in through its Web site and $23-million was donated online through Amazon.com and Yahoo.
In contrast, Internet contributions accounted for only $65.9-million of the nearly $1-billion the American Red Cross collected after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
During the past several days, "the pace of donations has been, for us, higher than tsunami," says Bill Strathmann, chief executive officer of Network for Good, a San Francisco nonprofit organization whose online giving site allows donors to contribute to any charity. On Wednesday and Thursday during peak times, he says, the site was processing a donation every other second or more than 1,800 gifts per hour.
Network for Good has seen relief contributions increase steadily throughout the week. On Monday, when the extent of the devastation was still unclear, the organization received $40,000 in relief donations. Tuesday the site handled $560,000, and $2.6-million on Wednesday. Thursday's total was just over $3-million, the biggest one-day tally in the organization's history.
Previously, the most money Network for Good had ever handled in one day was the $2.9-million donated through the site on December 31, 2004, which Mr. Strathmann says was a combination of both tsunami-relief gifts and year-end contributions.
Through the end of the day Wednesday, Internet gifts accounted for more than five times as much money as telephone contributions to America's Second Harvest, in Chicago. Of the more than $1-million the organization had raised for relief efforts, $450,000 came in online compared with $80,000 over the telephone. Corporate contributions make up the remaining $533,000.
"We've never seen this type of outpouring before," says Phil Zepeda, the organization's vice president for communication. "We have regular e-campaigns that we do. A successful campaign may bring in $7,000 or $8,000 over a timed period. This is just phenomenal support in a matter of days."
The Humane Society of the United States, in Washington, has raised more than $500,000 through the Internet for relief efforts to rescue and care for animals left behind in the disaster.
Wayne Pacelle, the organization's chief executive officer, believes that the Humane Society's extensive use of the Internet over the past several years helped lay the groundwork for the online totals it's seeing. He says that half of the money that has come in through the Web site can be traced to an e-mail appeal the organization sent out to 380,000 supporters.
Says Mr. Pacelle: "The Internet is the fast way that people are plugging in to show their support."
Ian Wilhelm contributed to this article.
Copyright © 2005 The Chronicle of Philanthropy
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