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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Get out your checkbook. Today is National Philanthropy day hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Of course not everyone makes their charitable donations by check. More and more online options like PayPal accounts are being offered, but the Web isn’t just raising more money it’s also opening up new ways to donate. Alex Goldmark has more.
ALEX GOLDMARK: New York lawyer Susan Clearwater donates so frequently to public schools that piles of thank you letters take up almost as much space in her office as legal documents.
SUSAN CLEARWATER: Thank you for the Weekly Readers. We were waiting for them for a long time. You are making our lives better. I wish I could meet you.
But what’s interesting isn’t how much she gives, but how she gives.
CLEARWATER: Well it’s so easy to just go click, click, click and there you’ve donated.
Clearwater uses a website called Donors Choose. Where teachers post requests for specific proposals, say $60 for new pencils and crayons or $2,000 for a class trip. Then Web surfers like Clearwater pick out which exact projects they’ll fund and click, click, give.
CLEARWATER: I think my favorite thing is the directness. It goes right to the project that you’ve picked.
CHARLES BEST: A donor could even type in I just want to see water color painting requests from North Carolina kindergarten teachers.
Former teacher, Charles Best created Donors Choose as a way to find new money for public schools.
BEST: Our donors tend to be people who care even more about choosing where their money is going and seeing their dollars at work than about public education.
While the Internet allows donors new control over their giving, it’s also letting people donate without giving any money at all.
DAN SHEEHY: You don’t even have to buy anything, you just have to search the Internet. You don’t need to register or anything, you don’t need to pass out a form, you don’t need to collect any forms. Just search the Web and a few cents goes to your cause each time you do it.
That’s Dan Sheehy. He used to run a successful Internet search business. But he realized that he could use the same technology to raise money for charity. So if you search Yahoo through his website, Freelanthropy.com, ads are still gonna pop up, but some of the money from the ads will go to charity.
SHEEHY: Even at 3 cents a search it takes a relative handful, a literal handful of people a couple of months supporting Free Wheelchair Mission through their search behavior to fund another wheelchair.
The Internet is letting smaller donors and smaller charities play bigger roles than before according to Stacy Palmer the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
STACY PALMER: The small groups have probably gained the most. The big groups, some of them are doing well and others of them have been a little bit slow to catch on and to find new ways of interacting, but most of them realize that really to attract the new they absolutely have to be doing it online.
According to a recent Chronicle survey, online giving in 2005 was up more than 50 percent over the previous year.
In New York, I’m Alex Goldmark for Marketplace.