Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Donations astound agencies

September 16, 2001

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The unprecedented outpouring of donations to relief agencies in the wake of Tuesday's attacks marks a new chapter in American philanthropy.

Chief executives are reaching into corporate coffers. Children are breaking open piggy banks. And the Internet is demonstrating its capabilities as a rapid-response conduit for philanthropy in a way never before seen.

The total amount given in three days, through midday Friday, was conservatively an estimated $100 million. The two forces behind this wave of generosity: patriotism and a desire to overcome a sense of helplessness in the face of unfathomable suffering.

"I'm speechless," said Sterling Speirn, president of the Peninsula Community Foundation in San Mateo, Calif. "It's been amazing to see a philanthropic response as a way of healing, as a way to feel hope."

Tuesday, the American Red Cross received three donations a minute through its Web site, at www.redcross.org.

Though the organization has not yet tallied the gifts, they will shatter any previous record. "This is completely unprecedented," spokeswoman Shelley McCaffrey said.

The Salvation Army in New York, as well as government agencies there, have temporarily stopped accepting material gifts. There is simply nowhere to store the donations.

Many of the Web's top sites devoted some of their most valuable on-screen real estate their front pages to donation appeals for the United Way, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other organizations.

Web retailing giant Amazon.com converted its home page into a credit-card fund-raising site for the Red Cross. From Tuesday to Friday, Amazon generated more than $5 million in donations.

Yahoo is hosting the online donation sites to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and a New York firefighters fund organizations whose own Web sites could not handle the enormous online traffic generated by people wanting to give. By Friday afternoon, Yahoo had raised $8 million in donations.

America Online raised $7 million in the first 40 hours after adding a special how-to-help pop-up window to its welcome screen.

Helping.org, a philanthropy portal created by the AOL Time Warner Foundation, picked up more than 18,000 donations, about $1.7 million, since Tuesday night. (The company is also donating $5 million.)

Community foundations, which dispense contributions for wealthy individuals, dispatched $10,000 checks to non-profits, acting on e-mail instructions from donors.

The September 11th Fund, created by the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust to assist disaster victims, pulled in $70 million from late Tuesday through Friday afternoon. Of that sum, $10 million came from 30,000 donations received via the Internet.

Companies and other groups set giving records. Microsoft pledged $5 million in cash and another $5 million in technology and services.

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