Online Philanthropy

Donating money isn’t something that everyone does, but its something that everyone thinks about doing at one time or another. It’s also something that, now that the Internet has been born, is much easier to do than ever before. With sites like JustGive.org and Networkforgood.org the prospect of donating has now become something that people can do anonymously without the hassle of constantly getting someone at your door, because you, “donated last year,” or bags of mail when all you wanted was to do was donate that one time.

Not only is it easier for a person to donate – really all one has to do is sit down at their computer – but it’s also easier to keep track of how many donations were given and thus making it easier to prepare taxes. Both the above mentioned online giving systems offer ways in which you can track how much you gave, who you gave to, and when you donated.

Both these websites are not just about giving, but they’re also about volunteering. For example a user can search out where and who to volunteer for and when to do it. A user can find a local place to volunteer at or a place they may be visiting for the summer or anytime. The sites give users access to any volunteer group in the U.S. or abroad.

JustGive and Network for Good are similar in many ways, but have contrasting aspects. At first glance both sites seem to do pretty much the same thing. A user goes on, click on button, donates to a charity, enters their credit card number and it’s all over. That may be true but JustGive offers a few more advantages than Network for Good. JustGive makes it for a person to find a charity and makes it possible to set up a wedding registry with them, so friends and family can donate to their favorite charities instead of giving sets of silver wear. JustGive has done investigative research for their users. Through this process they’ve found only most respected charities in the U.S. This way of donating can, and usually does, ease the mind of even the most suspicious online giver.

JustGive in the last year has made a partnership with American Express that allows American Express customers to donate to charities from their American Express account over the Internet. JustGive had to work hard at this; in fact they had to reorganize their site to accompany the security needed by the larger financial company. After everything was said JustGive had done what no other online or other charity had ever done before, making them the first to really use the technology available on the Internet.

Network for Good, unlike JustGive is a little more like most online e-commerce systems in that they have favorites list. They also have a “Hot Topics” list, which now for example has articles, and charities that deal with hurricane Katrina, global warming, and Iraq. They are also different in that a user can find a donation station to give blood at.

What both sites have in common for their users is that they offer a way in which to calculate how much a person could reasonably give based on their income. Their calculation programs not only helps a user with how much to give, but also gives those enthusiastic users a good idea on what they shouldn’t spend. They also both have newsletters that users can have sent to their email box. These newsletters come out two to three times a month and cover all the latest topics on which organizations need money the most.

Behind both these sites lies a fairly unknown organization called GuideStar, which uses the I.R.S. to track the address, phone numbers, and such of all the organizations, which accept donations in the U.S. There are over 7 hundred and fifty thousand. This makes it possible, if you were so inclined, to actually donate to a local church or organization in your community from your computer. You can even donate to your local baseball teams if you like. GuideStar offers many ways a business or organization can search their database. Fees for these services range from free to a thousand dollars a year. GuideStar not only keeps track of the information, but they are also a charity themselves. A professional staff and a cadre of volunteers keep their database up to date.

Some might ask how do both JustGive and Network for Good sustain themselves. Corporations such as Oracle, Microsoft, American Express, Google, Time Warner, Cisco Systems, and A.O.L sponsor them. They also have a remarkable way of getting grants from the government and receiving donations themselves, because they are also non-profit organizations.

All in all JustGive has had 18 million dollars donated through them in 2005 and 13 million in 2004 while Network for Good has had 76 million dollars donated through them since their start in 2001.

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