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Giving online: Part 4

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By Todd Cohen

Aidmatrix, a nonprofit in Dallas, Tex., that operates a web site on which relief agencies can post their needs and donors can make cash or in-kind donations to meet those needs, raised more than $340,000 through virtual aid drives for tsunami relief in the first two weeks, a total that had grown to $450,000 by late January.

And this spring, aidmatrix.org is launching a Global Disaster Relief Network that will be customized to handle in-kind donations to relief agencies in the wake of disasters.

“In-kind giving at the very beginning of a disaster may not be the most effective way to give,” says Margaret Gardner, vice president for marketing. “Our tool will not only let the agencies post what they need, it will also let the potential donors see the quantity that is needed, and when and where it is needed.”

In partnership with Toronto-based Free the Children, Aidmatrix in early January launched aidmatrix.org/adoptavillage to handle online giving for ongoing relief needs in South Asia.

Aidmatrix now offers a similar tool for free to any relief agency or nonprofit looking for long-term support, charging only a processing fee of 7 percent of funds collected.

ONLINE CHALLENGES

Gearing up for future disasters and ongoing fundraising will require nonprofits to develop technology and marketing strategies to cultivate donors, deliver appeals when needed, track results and handle surges in giving.

“An online system does not guarantee high participation rates,” says Don Sodo, president of America’s Charities. “These campaigns are not faceless campaigns, and in the workplace you still have to develop a sense of shared commitment and feeling and concern.”

Charities need to “be ready for your big event, your tsunami,” says Sheeraz Haji, CEO of GetActive Software in Berkeley, Calif., “and it really does matter what you have in place for those first couple of weeks.”

Simply handling heavy online traffic from donors after a disaster also can be a challenge.

To cushion overload from a benefit concert that NBC aired January 15 and that raised $18.3 million for the Red Cross, backup servers were

provided by Red Cross partners, including Convio, San Diego-based Kintera, GetActive and Yahoo!.

With online giving growing, says Leigh-Anne Dennison, a Red Cross spokesperson in Washington, D.C., it is “important for charities to be seriously looking at investing money in making sure their systems can handle it.”


Other articles in series:

Part 1: Tsunamis unleash Web philanthropy
Part 2: Web contributions surge in wake of Asian Tsunami. 
Part 3: Workplace contributions, technology donations flow.

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