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Yahoo Kicks Off Cyber Giving Week

On Black Friday, stores do their biggest business. On Cyber Monday, it's the turn of e-commerce sites to pull in the bucks.

Now, Cyber Giving Week aims to let charities harness the power of the Internet to pull in year-end, tax-deductible donations.

At midnight on December 25, Yahoo launched the week-long campaign by opening a microsite where givers can find receivers.

The site, operated in partnership with Network for Good, offers links to a variety of charities, as well as resources and tools for making decisions about contributions and maximizing annual tax breaks.

"This was the brainchild of someone in our marketing dept, thinking about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and how cool it would be to come up with a time of the year designated as giving back time," said Meg Garlinghouse, director of Yahoo for Good, the company's community service organization.

Yahoo co-founded Network for Good in November 2001, in partnership with AOL and Cisco Systems . The non-profit operates a Web site that acts as an online donation center for more than 1 million U.S. charities and a searchable database of more than 34,000 volunteer opportunities.

The broad selection of organizations includes Habitat for Humanity, DonorsChoose, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Mr. Holland's Opus, Fisher House, Save the Children, Humane Society of the United States, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund.

The site lets donors and the non-profits themselves get the benefits of online shopping.

"It's extremely easy, in that you can donate online to ten organizations in much less time than it would take to write checks and address envelopes," said Network for Good CEO Bill Strathmann. He pointed out that it's also a lot easier and less expensive for non-profits to receive a donation online, instead of paying people to open envelopes, record check amounts, and then trek to the bank to make deposits.

"In the late 1990s, [AOL co-founder] Steve Case asked whether it was as easy to donate online as it was to shop, and the answer was no," Strathmann said. "There is a digital divide among non-profits, and there are many that could not afford to get online. We are lagging behind online shopping and online banking."

Network for Good charges each donor 3 percent over the donation to cover operating costs. It aggregates donations to each charity, either sending a check or making an electronic funds transfer. Donors also can aggregate their donations, sending money to multiple organizations with a single credit card transaction -- and they can print a receipt for their taxes on the spot.

Strathmann said his organization hoped to process $4 million worth of donations this December; by December 27, it had handled $3.9 million, almost double the amount of contributions it processed in December 2004.

Online contributions in general have been on an upward trend, according to the Kintera/Luth Nonprofit Trend Report. The June 2005 report, compiled by Kintera , a provider of technology for nonprofits, and online market research firm Luth Research, found that U.S. households donated more than $3 billion online in 2004, an increase of nearly 60 percent over the previous year.

Kintera and Luth found that the Internet was the preferred donation mechanism for 44 percent of those who planned to give this month. At the same time, more than 65 percent of consumers used the Internet to make donation decisions.

The Cyber Giving Week microsite offers ways to search for charities and evaluate them. It also helps would-be donors determine their tax-deduction thresholds, understand tax breaks and find information on philanthropy and volunteer issues.

Yahoo will promote Cyber Giving Week from December 25 through December 31 with a variety of ads, including the Yahoo Mail tagline, on Yahoo News, Yahoo Eduction, its DSL partner pages, and on search terms. It also reserved its home page ad on December 25 and December 30 to promote the drive. The company said its in-kind advertising donation is worth more than $2 million.