(ARA) - The urge to help others runs deep in America. In 2006, roughly one in four adult Americans, 61.2 million total, volunteered their time, according to a new federal report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
But another reality for many Americans is that everyday life can get in the way of their good intentions; increasingly busy work schedules and other commitments reduce the amount of spare time they have to volunteer or give in other ways. The solution for busy Americans? Technology.
To keep up with their busy lives, people are searching for a way to maximize their time while still making a difference. Technology is once again meeting a critical need and playing an integral role in improving the situation. One example is the significant increase in online charitable donations. According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project report, since the beginning of 2005, the number of Americans who say they have ever made an online donation has increased by 53 percent.
One of the newest entries to this space is the i'm Initiative, developed to raise money to support 10 of the world's most effective nonprofit organizations. Instant messaging, a communications technology used by millions of people, is a way to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and loved ones online.
With the i'm Initiative, every time someone uses Windows Live Messenger to carry on a conversation, Microsoft donates a portion of the program's advertising revenue to the participating organization of choice. While the company will make a minimum $100,000 guaranteed donation to each of the 10 organizations during the first year of the program, there is no limit to the amount of money it will donate.
Amy Leavitt, 31, a marketing specialist and avid Messenger user, selects a different charity each week to receive the donation she generates with the 35 hours per week she spends sending instant messages.
"I was taught at a very early age that if you have money or time to spare, then you need to give back to charity," Leavitt says. "Volunteering is a big part of my life, and i'm gives me one more way to donate."
People can get involved and learn more about the i'm Initiative by joining at http://im.live.com and downloading the latest version of Windows Live Messenger at no cost. Once they join, they simply enter a text code that corresponds to one of the participating organizations into their Display Name field. People will recognize others who are participating by the small bold green i'm lettering next to their display name.
With millions of people using it each month, Windows Live Messenger significantly expands the potential audience of donors for many of these social causes.
"Microsoft's i'm Initiative has provided users of instant messaging technology with an important opportunity to help the millions of Americans that rely on the American Red Cross each year," says Kathleen Loehr, interim senior vice president of development at the American Red Cross. "This endeavor is even more exciting because people can help those in need by simply living their normal lives, chatting with their friends or families. While users may never meet all of the people their gift helps, we are glad that they are ready to help make a difference."
The organizations participating in the i'm Initiative include American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Humane Society of the United States, the National AIDS Fund, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ninemillion.org, Sierra Club, Stopglobalwarming.org, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Courtesy of ARAcontent