U.S./world – Digital catalyst – Building on helping.org, netaid.org

By Todd Cohen

Three giant tech firms are joining forces to boost online philanthropy.

New York-based AOL Time Warner has joined with Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., and Yahoo! in Sunnyvale, Calif., to develop a comprehensive one-stop philanthropic portal for donors, volunteers and nonprofits.

The idea is to aggregate Web-based information and tools for donors, volunteers and nonprofits, connect those groups to one another and deliver a large and new audience for online giving and volunteering.

The new site would build on two Web initiatives — helping.org, the two-year-old site developed by the AOL Time Warner Foundation that helps people make donations

and volunteer, and features online resources for nonprofits, and netaid.org, the two-year-old site launched by Cisco and the United Nations that aims to build an online community around issues involving extreme poverty in poor nations.

“We’re really trying to find ways to make it as easy as possible for consumers to fulfill all their philanthropic needs, and trying as much as possible to help nonprofits take advantage of what the Internet has to offer,” says a project participant, who asked not be identified.

The site could be launched in time for the holiday giving season, possibly with a test site operating as early as this month.

The three tech firms, which aim to plug into and build on the nonprofit community’s online experience in developing the site, are looking for foundations and other companies as partners.

“It looks like the companies are starting to get traction on an industry-wide proposal,” says the participant.

A key goal of the three companies is “to use the Internet to help improve society,” says another participant, who also asked not to be identified.

 “The Internet can be a great social good,” he says, “and we’re coming together to see if that can happen in a way that’s inclusive and helpful to nonprofits.”

Tentative plans call for folding helping.org into the new site, which could be run by a nonprofit the partners would form.

The site initially would feature online tools and resources to make it easy for people to contribute money and volunteer, and to help nonprofits perform basic business functions.

Long-term plans call for the site to pull together the wealth of data and resources on nonprofits and for nonprofits that is scattered throughout the Web.

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