This week in Dana Greenlee’s column~ Net helps out after attack on America

Technology companies are going to their strengths in order to help the relief effort after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Internet has the ability to provide nearly instantaneous information and immediate relief, whether through a place to vent emotions or a conduit for financial donations.
The Internet has brought in about a third of the $100-plus million in donations.
A variety of charitable organizations have established programs to help people and communities affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
Web giants Yahoo and were quick to offer relief efforts, making it easy for people to donate through links to charity sites.
Tacoma dot-com Donation Depot, however, has been providing the back end financial transaction process for the flood of electronic funds within hours of the attacks.
As one of the donation processors for nearly every charity in the country as well as the electronic transaction provider for another Tacoma-based site – – Donation Depot has transacted approximately $1 million since the attacks.
Donation Depot CEO Brandon Fix explains his efforts for the NY Fallen Firefighters and Rescue Workers Fund, suggestions for supporting the relief and the work of online dona-tions.
Q: What has Donation Depot done to assist in the relief to this attack?
A: Our mission is to provide high quality, cost effective solutions that empower individuals, companies and non-profit organizations to give, receive and manage electronic donations.
We make it easy. We’ve set up a bunch of resources on our main site of Donation enabling people to give to organizations that are having problems because the demand to donate is so high that there are bandwidth slow-downs and servers crashing.
The demand is so high, they need to broaden the ability for people to donate at other locations.
On our site, as always, you can make a gift to any organization. For instance, if you know of a local organization, specifically in the New York-area that is physically helping today, you can give to them.
If you want to volunteer somewhere locally or across the country, you can sign up for volunteer positions. We also have some common sense tips on our site like don’t call the national organization of the American Red Cross if you can find alternative sites to get the information, which would really help them out with their Website traffic and telephone overload.
Q: Donation Depot has devoted a special area on your site to offer resources to those who want to help.
You’re also asking that people e-mail their stories about the terrorist attack and share their thoughts at your site with other donors and nonprofits.
What stories have you heard from your site visitors?
A: We put that on the site so that people could have a place to vent. We had one very interesting note from a person who offered to pay whatever it took to have our local Red Cross be able to offer online donations itself without having to relying on the national organizations. In essence, if the national Red Cross went down, the local Red Crosses across American could still receive and process the funds as normal.
There are a lot of people out there with resources that could help charities in a different way and this person has stepped outside the box and said he wanted to help them help themselves.
This anonymous person has made a sizable gift as well.
Q: So you are doing something to facilitate that?
A: Yes. The Tacoma Pierce County Red Cross now has the ability to receive online donations.
We have a product called NPO Pro, which makes us completely behind the scenes and allows the organization to receive the funds with the same look and feel of their own site.
Q: How does your volunteer database work?
A: We have a huge volunteer database that matches a person with an organization that has a volunteer job available.
For instance, you enter yourself into the online database and say you want to do a humanitarian effort to aid in emergency relief and you want to do it within a 100-mile radius from where you live.
Ninety-nine percent of the time it will give you a matching volunteer position no matter where you are in the U.S. and sometimes abroad.
Q: Tell us about your partnership with Tacoma’s
A: One of our big partners is They’re a non-profit operated and maintained by firefighters in the Pacific Northwest. They’re specifically set up to process and receive funds to distribute to the families of the fallen firefighters.
We partnered with them last May, long before the attacks. Since a few days after the attacks, they’ve been placed on the front page of and
We’re seeing a massive amount of actual trans-actions that are being run through our system that are earmarked for them.
Q: Are you being able to accommo-date that load?
A: We’ve opened up our bandwidth and have duplicate servers in place and redundancy all over the U.S. The traffic is more than what anyone can imagine.
We deal with millions of hits everyday from people just looking around, but haven’t had to deal with millions of transactions per day until this event.
Q: Are you partnered with any other sites on the Internet to help get the word out about donating to this tragedy?
A: Yes. For example, we’ve teamed with Personal Design Concepts, a Lakewood company, and PhotoWorks who is donating $3 to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund for every selected photo gift purchased from the Website.
Again, donations will go directly to these firefighters’ families.
Q: Are you tracking where the 9-11 donations are coming from geographically?
A: We do a cross section look. The majority are coming from the U.S. and they’re scattered all over.
It’s a unanimous effort to help. We are also seeing donations from Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland – all over the world people are pouring in to help.
Q: Do you recommend any other charities that would specifically help with this relief?
A: If you really think about it, it could be the smallest organization that could help in the biggest way. It could be a local mission or the Meals on Wheels in New York City that really needs help. There are a million charities in America and New York City has a huge amount of them.
Donation Depot could be a resource for many groups and you can find the one that you want to give to.
Q: For those who don’t have access to the Internet – which is about half the population – can you suggest ways they could help?
A: If you wanted to give to the Red Cross, don’t call the toll free number. They can barely handle those transactions at the moment. However, if you call your local Red Cross, they’ll get the funds directly to the area of need right away.
The Salvation Army is also doing a lot for the relief effort. There are lots of offline ways to help.
Q: How is the money donated through Donation Depot distributed?
A: We have two different levels of clients. The Red Cross is an NPO Pro client. One hundred percent of the funds go to them every time. You give a dollar, we send a dollar.
We transmit the donations to the charity on a monthly basis. We have another client level called a Spotlight Membership. This level of service is free to the nonprofit.
If donors come to Donation Depot and give to any of these organizations, whether they’re already part of our clientele base or not, then we have an admin fee is never more than 10 percent.
Sometimes we literally have to find the organization and set them up to electronically process their donation.
Q: Could you give us a bit of background on Donation Depot?
A: I started Donation Depot about three years ago in Tacoma. I was a fundraising executive for the Boys and Girls Club. I loved technology so I looked for a way to merge my two things that I loved together – and it turned out to be Donation Depot.
It started out being a portal where the idea was that every charity could get 100 percent in one place. It was costly for one charity to set up everything themselves – set up a secure server, secure pages, have developers update it all the time, monitor and track it, send reporting and deal with the funds.
So I set up one common system they could all access. We paid for the system and if they all paid just a little bit, then every charity in American could receive online donations.
If you’re looking for a place to help in this crisis, visit:
You just have to click on the “America Under Attack” link.
Contributions to for the The NY Fallen Firefighters and Rescue Workers Fund will go to the families of our fallen rescue personnel.
If you would like to write a check, mail your donation to: Fire Donations: Memo NY Fund, 1127 Broadway Suite 102, Tacoma, WA 98402.
Fire Donations direct phone number is 253/274-0424 and their e-mail is:
A full audio interview with Brandon Fix can be heard at
Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index. WebTalkGuys, a Tacoma-based commercial-free talk show which features technology news and interviews, can be heard Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to noon, on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma/Seattle area. Past show and interviews are also Webcast via the Internet at: