Helping dot-charities 

Last year around this time, I wrote a succinct guide to online shopping. But this holiday season, I just can’t bring myself to repeat the experience.

E-commerce was a big deal last year. Now it’s become routine. And besides, I already have everything I really need, so I don’t feel like shopping. I don’t want to buy anything right now — even online.

But I’m no eGrinch. This holiday season, I’m celebrating giving — not consumption. Compared to 1999’s traffic numbers, industry forecasters expect 6 million more people will shop for gifts online this year. But you don’t have to join the home shopping throng. Instead, channel some of that holiday spirit into something other than a Web cash register. This year, let’s give.

TRY NOT TO BUY

Last week, Adbusters magazine sponsored Buy Nothing Day, a “consumer fast” held on the day after Thanksgiving — also known as the year’s biggest strip-mall traffic jam. But why let it stop with just one day?

Visit the toolbox section of adbusters.org and download their clever Gift Exemption Voucher. Then print it out and give it to someone you love. The fancy and official-looking certificate is designed to be exchanged in lieu of pricey baubles and wrapping paper. Certifying that you are “exempt from the exchange of Christmas gifts” (and, one assumes, other holiday favors), it’s your no-cost ticket to a holiday season without the taint of blatant consumerism. And, of course, it’ll free your money up for more important things.

GIVE IT AWAY

Once you’ve exchanged gift exemption certificates with your significant other, you can do what Scrooge ultimately did: help others. The Web is the perfect place for charity, and the shop-in-your-pajamas convenience of e-commerce sites now applies to online generosity too. Once you’ve experienced Web charity’s ease, you’ll want to make it a part of your holiday routine every year.

Your first stop should be www.allcharities.com, an amazingly comprehensive tool for those in a giving mood. This one site links to nearly 700,000 charities — everything from the League of Women Voters to Citizens for Dental Health. Yet despite the huge number of represented charitable organizations, the site’s excellent design and Yahoo-style interface makes finding the desired charity easy, educational and fun.

Meanwhile, allcharities’ secured credit card technology processes your donation safely and immediately. It’s every bit as private and protected as any online shopping mall.

HAND OUT

Finally, if you’re saving pennies, visit the Web’s click-to-give sites. Here you’ll give by clicking, rather than paying. For example, at thehungersite.com, every time a visitor clicks the “Donate Free Food” button, a cup of food is donated to charity.

How can this be? Each click brings up a page of sponsor ads. The clicks are counted daily, and the sponsors pay for the donated food based on how many times people have viewed their ads.

The Hunger Site is certainly the most popular click-to-give site (more than 100 million visitors so far). However, there are several others, including ecologyfund.com (one click saves 140 square feet of rain forest) and the must-visit clickforacure.com (choose from several medical charities, including cancer research).

Or better yet, bookmark mysmallpart.com, a portal site to nearly 20 click-to-give charities that automatically calculates your total donations and tracks the impact of other givers as well.

SPEND WELL

But if you simply must shop — and for some, it’s just the social reality of the season — try doing it from a shop-for-charity site. Sites such as 4charity.com and www.greatergood.com function as portals to the more popular shopping destinations such as eToys.com and amazon.com. A portion of your purchase price (usually between 5 percent and 15 percent) is donated to charity, ensuring happy holidays for all.

WEBHEADS UNITE

Digital Detroit (formerly Detroit New Media Association) is hauling out the big guns this week for its 2000 Digital Detroit Conference. The local Web professional organization is kicking up the volume compared to last year’s more modest affair — more panel discussions, bigger sponsors and higher-profile guest speakers. And, most importantly, better parties after dark.

Billed as “the most respected digital economy gathering east of the valley and west of the alley,” this year’s conference takes place this Wednesday and Thursday at Detroit’s swank Atheneum Hotel. A two-day pass costs $225 (or $200 if you’re a Digital Detroit member).

It’s clear Digital Detroit is aiming for mainstream respectability with opening remarks from Mayor Dennis Archer and keynote addresses from industry movers such as MTV interactive CEO Nicholas Butterworth.

However, the group is also trying to maintain their street cred — with a special afterparty held Thursday evening at Detroit’s CPop Gallery. DJ Carl Craig will spin, a kaleidoscope of video art will blink, and a promised gathering of “the entire local digital community” will graze at the open buffet and bar. Sounds like a blast, but nonmember admission is a steep $50. I guess membership has its privileges, even on the digital side of the street (tickets are $25 for Digital Detroiters). The party starts at 7 p.m. Find more info at www.digitaldetroit.org.

Party with Adam Druckman online at metrotimes.com, or e-mail adruckman@metrotimes.com

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