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eCharity moves to U.S. – Public stock sale in works

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British firm eCharity.com, which processes charitable Web sites through its Web site for free, plans a major expansion of its Hartford office, Reuters reports.

eCharity.com, part of the privately held MM group based in Bristol, England, will set up its world headquarters in the Connecticut capital and expand from nine employees to 150 within a few months.

Ian Hughes, eCharity.com’s founder and chief executive, told Reuters that “tens of millions” of dollars will be spent on the expansion.

The company also is spinning off from the MM group and likely will seek a public listing on Nasdaq in 18 to 24 months, Hughes says.

The company does not take funds from donors or charities, but makes its money from advertising and sponsorship deals.

Last year, eCharity processed about $300 million in donations made over the Internet or by mail or telephone.

“We have been operating in Europe for the last five years, and we are the world’s oldest and largest online fundraising organization,” Hughes says.  He says the company already has been approached by about 500 U.S. charities even though its U.S. web site will not be up until the end of May.

Some industry analysts project that online philanthropy will increase to $10 billion this year, compared to about $100 million in 1999.

“We ourselves have seen donations to charities rise 1,000 percent year on year for the last two years,” Hughes says.

His firm aspires to be a successful Web pioneer like Amazon.com, the Seattle-based online bookstore.

“eCharity.com is going to change fundamentally the way you give money to charity,” he says.

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