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Web donors give millions in relief

The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the United Way benefit from a wave of charity dollars flooding the Internet in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.

The American Red Cross said Monday that the Internet has brought in about a third of the $102 million in donations it received following last week's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Red Cross said as of 9 a.m. PDT, it raised $36.5 million from online donations. The money will be used to provide disaster relief for survivors, the families of victims and rescue workers as well as to maintain America's blood supply.

"This disaster has just been unprecedented, so we're responding with all of our available resources to these tragedies," said Shannon McElligott, spokeswoman for the Red Cross. The Internet "is another tool for us to communicate with the public--to let them know what we're doing and let them know how they can help us save a life."

The Red Cross and other relief organizations have found the fund-raising potential of the Web in the past. In the weeks following January's devastating earthquake in India, the Red Cross said it gathered some $1.5 million through its Web site alone.

"It is horrible what's happened, but I think the Internet really has come about as a great place for people to quickly act---almost impulse donate rather than impulse buy," said Patrick Thomas, Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.

Thomas added that a lot of technology companies such as Yahoo and have stepped up relief efforts, making it easy for people to donate through links to charity sites.

The Salvation Army has received $1.5 million in online donations for disaster relief efforts, according to spokesman Lt. Col. Danny Morrow. He said most of the donations have come through Yahoo's site; the rest are donations via The Salvation Army's site.

"We're always so appreciative that people support our work, whether they do it by mail or drop by an office," Morrow said. But the Web "really affords people an opportunity to be generous and spontaneous in a new way, so we're very pleased with that."

United Way of New York said out of $76 million in donations to its September 11 Fund, $4 million were from online pledges. The fund was created by the United Way and The New York Community Trust for established emergency-assistance agencies providing immediate support in cities affected by the events.

"What we're finding is really a strong need to reach out to other people," said Jeanette Brown, a spokeswoman from the United Way of New York. The Web is "really enabling them to do that in a way that they couldn't do before--it's almost like instant gratification."