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Next-Gen donors

The Internet can help turn a generation of volunteers into a generation of donors to charity.

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Charities know that young people volunteer. Over 90 percent of college-bound high school seniors have done community service – partly to be attractive to colleges, but partly out of goodwill. How to turn that goodwill into donations and foster a habit of financial giving? Technology can help.

Young people are connected to each other in ways that their parents weren't. The same bonds are there, but they are facilitated and widened by the Internet and cell- phones. Combine that with awareness of events, such as hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, and the potential for financial support is significant.

Politicians discovered the intersection of technology and youth in the last presidential election cycle, and now they turn to it in fundraising. Campaigns attract small donations over the Internet from many people – especially from enthused, Web-savvy 20- and 30-somethings. In the end, that adds up to big bucks.

Now nonprofits are starting to catch on. They're not only providing a link on their Web pages for click-on donations, they're beginning to join with social-networking sites such as Facebook. There, friends can tell friends about their special causes and inspire support.

One charity experimenting with Facebook and other Internet fundraising facilitators is the Case Foundation, the private foundation of AOL founder Steve Case. In mid-December, it launched a fundraising drive to encourage people who may never have thought of themselves as donors to use the Internet to give at least $10 to their favorite charity – and to encourage friends and family to do the same.

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