Friday, December 31, 2004

Go Canada!!

If you haven't already done so, please visit to donate to the relief efforts.

Canadians donate $20-million, mostly on-line, in record time
UPDATED AT 9:12 AM EST Friday, Dec 31, 2004

CALGARY -- Canadians have pointed and clicked their way to an unprecedented outpouring of donations this week, as the age of instant giving hits its stride and speeds the efforts of charities to get desperately needed supplies to victims of the tsunami disaster.

Individual Canadians have donated more than $20-million to five of the country's largest charities in just 3½ days. Nearly two-thirds of that amount had come instantly through the websites of the Canadian Red Cross, Care Canada, Oxfam Canada, Unicef Canada and World Vision Canada .

Technology author Rick Broadhead was one of the thousands donating through the website of the Red Cross, which raised $9-million on-line from a total of $14-million in individual contributions. It took only a few seconds to fill in his contact and credit-card information, he said. "It was just very slick."

The mood at the Red Cross and the other four charities is the same: astonishment at the record-shattering pace of fundraising and delight that such a large amount of money will be available so quickly. "It's amazing," Red Cross spokeswoman Jo Williams said.

This is much more than a numbers game, however. The huge amount of cash means charities will be able to move more aggressively to get crucial supplies such as oral rehydration salts to those who have survived the initial onslaught of the tsunamis but are at risk of perishing in their wake.

"There's no question. It saves lives," said David Agnew, president and chief executive officer of Unicef Canada.

World Vision Canada said the surprising surge in on-line donations will allow it to do more, and sooner. "Things that might have been on your wish list are now on your reality list," spokeswoman Judy Burrell said.

The pace of on-line donations was so fierce that it crashed Care Canada's website for about an hour yesterday, although the charity quickly beefed up its computing power and continued taking contributions. At World Vision Canada, employees were asked to avoid browsing their organization's website to prevent on-line donors from being shut out.

In just three days, Oxfam Canada has collected nearly as much for the tsunami relief effort as it did over a two-week period for a similar effort in Rwanda. Mark Fried said the $1.1-million that has come in, two-thirds of that through on-line donations, could eventually double, setting a record for the organization.

Mr. Agnew and officials at other charities say they aren't sure why Canadians have given so much, so quickly. Certainly, part of the answer is the scope of the disaster, with tens of thousands dead and a dozen countries devastated. Many Canadians have personal and family ties to those nations.

Intensive media coverage of the tsunamis' toll is a factor as well. Those shocking images came at a time when many Canadians were home for the holidays, and perhaps in a more generous mood, Mr. Agnew said.

Unicef and other charities clearly see the Internet as a major part of their massively successful effort. Media publicity of their websites has helped, but the larger reason may have to do with the comfort factor: Newfangled technology has become familiar and embedded in Canadians' lives.

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