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Twin Efforts Aim to Popularize Online Giving

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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007

The old thinking goes that to change the world, you have to give millions. But young tech-savvy philanthropists are trying to prove otherwise.

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Leveraging new technologies and the growth of social networking Web sites, several online-giving pioneers have been trying to expand the pool of potential donors by democratizing philanthropy and making it more transparent.

Today, America Online founder Steve Case's private foundation is launching America's Giving Challenge, one of the nation's most ambitious efforts to draw the masses to philanthropy through the Internet ( http://www.casefoundation.org/givingchallenge).

The initiative, which will be featured Sunday in Parade Magazine in newspapers nationwide, seeks to draw regular folks who do not consider themselves philanthropists to go online, find a cause and give money -- as little as $10 -- to charities around the world.

The Washington-based Case Foundation will also introduce a sister challenge today at Facebook, a social networking site. Facebook users, through the "causes" application, will be able to donate to any of 1 1/2 million charities, and the donations and causes will be displayed on their profiles. The goal is to get young people to identify with charitable efforts and inspire their friends to join them.

Joe Green, 24, whose Harvard University roommate, Mark Zuckerberg, founded Facebook, designed the causes application and said it is modeled after the lessons of grass-roots politics.

"There's a lot of evidence that this generation, my generation, is incredibly interested in changing the world around them and being civically engaged," Green said. "People have this latent power locked up in their social network, but they don't really know about it. People have the power to change the world just by influencing 10 friends."

These are not the first experiments with online philanthropy, but observers said they are the most sweeping. This year, actor Kevin Bacon and the nonprofit Network for Good launched the SixDegrees.org campaign to get people to donate online and solicit donations from friends.

After natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, thousands of Americans donated to relief organizations through the Internet. This fall, when wildfires ravaged Southern California, the rock band Linkin Park helped raise money through musicforrelief.org.

In the efforts launching today, two nonprofits, Network for Good and GlobalGiving, have partnered with the Case Foundation. Both groups have secure online databases with lists of organizations, including financial information, to help potential donors pick a charity.

GlobalGiving, based in Washington and founded by two former World Bank executives, allows people to find charities by country, theme and cause. Donors will receive online updates "from the field," including videos and photos, to see how their money is being spent, said Dennis Whittle, the organization's founder and chief executive.

Traditionally, donors send money to charities by mailing a check, and charities bestow the most attention on the most generous givers. But, Whittle said, new technology has the potential to make "all donors equal in the eyes of philanthropy."


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