GM Puts Its Online Clout Behind Philanthropy



Being the largest company in the world isn't keeping General Motors Corp. from showing its Christmas spirit. Combining its corporate visibility with its growing emphasis on the Internet, the automaker has launched a site devoted to linking would-be donors and volunteers with the universe of charitable organizations they can help.

Developed and hosted by the company's e-GM unit, Webhands.org provides information about thousands of charitable groups throughout the United States, making it simpler for people to contact them or determine which ones they'd like to support. The site, which focuses on organizations that supply food, clothing, shelter, Internet access, and literacy development, provides contact information for more than 2,000 organizations and identifies which of the five focus areas each one addresses. Plans call for the number of organizations detailed on the site to reach 5,000 by the end of the first quarter of 2001.

Colette MacNeil, general manager of e-GM's community initiatives, says the benefits of the site for charitable groups are twofold: to provide a technology platform that lets cash-strapped organizations get on the Web and to let those organizations piggy-back on the mammoth exposure GM can bestow. MacNeil says the site was created in recognition of GM's responsibilities. "The de facto reality is that GM is the biggest company in the world, which means we're also the biggest community member in the world," she says.

Joyce Dallas, development director of the Coalition on Temporary Shelter, which provides an assortment of housing services in the Detroit area, says she hasn't come across a site that offers the breadth of information on charitable organizations nationwide that Webhands has. Dallas says being asked to provide information for the Webhands site presented a huge opportunity given that the Coalition has just begun to explore the use of the Web to further its cause. "Having the chance to participate in a site that's up and running while we're still learning about the Web ourselves is really great," Dallas says. "It will be great if it results in an increase in donations and volunteerism."

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