Promotions for hunger relief have long turned to television footage, featuring celebrity pitches against a backdrop of misery from people like Struthers to help raise cash. In theory, the Web offers a way to enable charities to capitalize even better on impulse donations when emotions are most raw.
"When you read an article or see an image that touches you, it ought to be possible to react immediately and help," Peter Sprague, chief executive of Wave Systems, said in a statement announcing the launch of the CharityWave Web site today. "We owe it to society to give back not just money, but the means of access to the ever-increasing millions who are online daily."
As charities flock to the Web for fund-raising, CharityWave aims to go one step further by creating a network that will allow people to make instant contributions to organizations through links from news stories, images or anywhere else on the Internet.
According to the White House, Americans last year gave an estimated $174.5 billion in philanthropic donations, amounting to roughly 2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Wave Systems, a digital content security company, joins numerous others hoping to boost those figures dramatically and put more charitable proceeds into the hands of the needy.
CharityWave.com offers traditional contribution services, enabling philanthropic organizations to collect donations from its Web site. The company says the service gives 100 percent of the contributions to selected charities and picks up transaction costs such as credit card fees. At launch, 30 organizations had signed up for the service, including United Way International and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
Other sites have sprung up aiming to redirect a portion of consumer dollars to charities, such as Working Assets' ShopForChange, an online mall made up of 60 retailers that give 5 percent of every sale to charity.
America Online launched Helping.org, a philanthropy Web site that connects users to more than 620,000 charities to either donate their money or volunteer their time to nonprofits.
CharityWave hopes to take the concept even further, leveraging its e-commerce technology to offer an instant donation service from anywhere on the Web.
"Our ultimate goal is to make it possible for anyone on the Web to reach out and contribute to the lives of others," Sprague said.
Reuters contributed to this report.