Web Companies Channel Aid to Bayou

A bevy of Web and wireless companies is responding to the unfolding disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi, offering up their large user bases to humanitarian organizations seeking aid.

Companies such as Amazon.com, PayPal, and Verizon Wireless have set up systems so their users can donate with a click of a mouse or a thumb gesture.

Amazon placed a one-click donation button on its home page to enable direct gifts to the American Red Cross. The move was designed to make it easier for customers with credit card information on file to help the Katrina relief efforts. It reprises an action Amazon took during last year’s tsunami in Southeast Asia. The company has so far collected $2.2 million in aid on 21,325 donations, according to a ticker on the site.

PayPal has a similar initiative, by which registered users can donate directly to United Way’s Katrina Response Fund.

Verizon Wireless set up a text messaging donation option. Subscribers can add a $5 gift to their cellular bill by sending an SMS (define) to the short code “2HELP.” The money goes to the Red Cross. Massachusetts-based mobile marketing firm m-Qube enabled the function.

In addition to the accelerated fundraising enabled by the Internet, Web services in general have become an important communication tool for people directly affected by the hurricane and subsequent floods. Bayou area residents began using the lost and found listings on craigslist to look for information about missing loved ones. Other sites, such as MoveOn.org, are helping victims find temporary, free housing.

Earlier this week, the Red Cross issued a call for Web site operators to donate online ad space to support its fundraising efforts. The group provided and hosted the banners itself. Many blogs and other sites carried the banner code, but the organization’s Web site has buckled under heavy traffic and many of these ads reportedly have not rendered. On Thursday, a DoubleClick representative told ClickZ the company was unable to reach an IT contact at the Red Cross regarding donating free ad serving for two weeks.

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