Christmas, as you can't fail to have noticed, is a time for giving. Many of us are consumed by guilt over the amounts we've splurged on unwanted presents for distant relatives, and develop a compulsion to make a compensatory charitable donation.
Tin-shakers and clipboard-wielders are out in force, and boxes of charity Christmas cards have been piled high in the stores and quickly snapped up. But with the Charities Advisory Trust having recently released another survey suggesting that charities don't do quite as well as we might think out of those cards with Harrods singled out for particular criticism is there a less wasteful, more efficient way we can donate, perhaps via the internet? Most charities have websites that allow us to give money directly. In addition, sites such as justgiving.com offer a sponsorship service that allows you to convert a Christmas parachute jump or a New Year weight-loss programme into hard cash for the charity of your choice. You can also bid in the Independent auction, for one of a choice of unique experiences alongside one of your favourite Independent writers ( http://news.independent. co.uk/appeals/indy_appeal). There are still two days left to place your bids.
But it's possible to do good simply by changing the way you use the internet. "Most people aren't aware of it," says Kathryn Vere, manager of online store giveortake.com, "but money is paid out by companies in return for referrals or links to their website particularly if something is bought as a result of that referral. The idea behind giveortake.com was to allow people to choose how that money is spent." The concept is simple: make giveortake.com your first port of call, click from its site to the store of your choice and make your purchase as normal. The store pays giveortake.com for the referral, giveortake.com passes that money on to you, and you can then donate that cash.
Google's AdSense scheme allows anyone with a website to generate advertising revenue; site owners can display a selection of Google's adverts on any page, with each click on an advert resulting in a cash reward from Google. As Rebecca Appleton at web marketing experts Top Position explains, the scheme can be lucrative if positioned skilfully. "The amount you receive for one click depends on the amount the advertiser has paid to appear," she says, "but it can be as much as a few pounds."
So, what if this cash was given to charity? This was the thought that occurred to Roberto Thais, a 24-year old Peruvian studying at Yale University. When an earthquake struck Peru in August, Thais tried to raise cash by putting Google's AdSense programme to work. Using another Google service called Co-op, he rebadged its search engine as Aidgle and put it online at aidgle.com. 430,000 queries have been received by the engine so far, with more than $3,000 generated in advertising revenue.
A British site, letthemknowitschristmas.com, was launched last Monday using a similar idea: it supplies the front end to a search engine, with the resulting cash from advertising donated to World Vision on Christmas Day. "Users don't have to give their own financial backing," says Robin Boles, its creator. "They're able to benefit charities simply through an action."
Ippimail.com was launched in early 2006, with the aim of having an email service running on open-source software, and with a charitable purpose. "We have a personal profile questionnaire that we ask people to voluntarily fill in," says Simon Martin, its founder, "and we can use that information to attract appropriate advertising. We keep this information completely private, but it means we know so much about our users that advertisers are willing to pay large sums to be able to reach them."
This week's launch of MySpace's Impact channel at myspace.com/impactuk puts MySpace's core youth audience in touch with campaigns, charities and social causes. In addition, many charities now have prominent MySpace profiles, and Justgiving.com has created a widget that MySpace users can embed in their profiles and encourage donations.
eBay is also in on the act, with a range of auction-related ways you can give to charity at ebay.co.uk/ebay-for-charity, while squidoo.com has launched a scheme whereby it pays revenue for visits to your blog, which it can then pay to selected charities on your behalf. And waitrose.com and surefish.co.uk offer broadband packages where profits are donated to good causes. But if you just want to send a card, you could do worse than visiting charitye-cards.co.uk, where 50 per cent of the price of the card goes to your nominated charity. Can you match that, Harrods?
Give it up: charity websites
Ippimail is a webmail service like Hotmail or Google Mail; it's not quite as advanced, but all the essentials are there, including spam filter and virus catcher. It's easy to migrate from any other address, and it can forward email to any address (with a small text advert appended). The service has built up a user base approaching 5,000 people since it launched 18 months ago. About 50 per user per year is generated in advertising revenue, and 55 per cent of this is given to the good causes. You can choose which charities will benefit and there is a huge list, from Kew Gardens to the International Otter Survival Fund.
Surefish is an internet service provider run by Christian Aid; all the broadband packages are at 8Mb speeds, so you can opt either for the capped service (10GB) for 22.50 per month, or unlimited service at 27.50 per month. Up to 8 a month from your payment is given to charity, while the search engine on the surefish.co.uk homepage generates additional amounts. Since 2001, it has raised more than 500,000. All proceeds go to Christian Aid and are used in the charity's work throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
This is just the Google search-engine in different clothing; the results appear in the same way, but the adverts appear above your results rather in the sidebar. All proceeds at present are going to help victims of the earthquake in Peru in August.
We've all received clunking, gaudy animated e-cards in our email inbox, but these are classier. The site offers a range of greetings cards which are then emailed to your intended recipient with your own personalised message. Half of all proceeds goes to charity. Cards cost between 20p and 1 each, depending on the number you buy at once. You can nominate one of nine charities to benefit, from the Tusk Trust's work in protecting African wildlife to the Laura Crane Trust and its research into cancer in teenagers and young adults.
This acts as a front end for your search engine Google or Ask.com which you then set as your homepage. The background can be set to display a slideshow of pictures from the photo-sharing site Flickr, either from a particular account or just pictures with certain keywords attached. The amount donated fluctuates depending on the adverts that are clicked on, but Google and Ask.com pay out for every click. The aim is to raise as much money as possible by Christmas Day. All proceeds will be donated to WorldVision.
A gateway to 600 online stores such as eBay, Play.com and high-street names. Once you've joined up, use the site as a directory to get to the store you want; referral fees are collected from the stores and credited to your account, to do with what you will. Buy a 100 gadget at firebox.com, say, and 10 is credited to your account. Smaller gifts boost your fund, too. Give or Take works with more than 70 charities, including Barnardo's, Shelter and the charity for the deaf and hard of hearing, RNID.Reuse content