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Donations to hurricane relief pick up strongly

WASHINGTON—Donations to charities that are helping Hurricane Katrina's victims surged Friday in an outpouring that, if it persists, could set a record for private disaster relief.

Charity analysts said saturation news coverage and big corporate contributions were reasons for the sudden upswing in giving. Another, they said, was a perception among donors that government agencies weren't doing enough.

"Seeing people dying evoked a really strong response," said Stacy Palmer, the editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a Washington-based trade publication. "So did the feeling that the government wasn't doing enough. People figured that if they gave to private groups, maybe they'd get something done."

According to the Chronicle, Katrina relief donations to national charities totaled $219 million by Friday. The American Red Cross alone raised $196 million this week. By comparison, Americans gave $30 million in the first three days after last year's Indian Ocean tsunami in December. In the 10 days after Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. charities took in $239 million, according to the Chronicle, a semi-weekly whose numbers are the industry standard.

Giving is likely to surge further from a Friday night NBC telethon featuring club crooner Harry Connick Jr. and jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, both from New Orleans. The Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund is the telethon's beneficiary.

CNN plans a celebrity-studded three-hour "How You Can Help" special at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday. Other networks and BET plan televised fund-raisers over the next 10 days, and scores of musicians with New Orleans roots are offering benefit concerts.

In one innovative in-kind donation, the left-of-center activist group MoveOn.org announced Friday that its new matchmaking Web site, www.hurricanehousing.org, had identified some 13,000 households in the Southeast that were willing to take in homeless survivors of the disaster. Hosts can reject pets, smokers or anything else when they make their offerings and can screen invitees anonymously.

Until Friday, Katrina aid donations had been somewhat sluggish. The Red Cross took in $71.6 million in the first three days after the hurricane and, according to the Wall Street Journal, its average donation to Katrina victims from individual donors was smaller than for the December tsunami's victims.

Intense corporate giving helped make up the difference, led by the Eli Lilly Foundation ($10 million), Chevron Corp. ($5 million), Toyota Motor Corp. and subsidiaries ($5 million), Abbott Laboratories ($4 million in cash and in-kind aid), Wal-Mart Stores ($2 million) and Microsoft ($1 million).

In another major gift, rappers Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z pledged $1 million to the Red Cross on Thursday, saying fellow African-Americans were suffering disproportionately.

Officials of several charities said getting help to victims remained extremely difficult, however, especially in Louisiana.

An umbrella group that coordinates and delivers aid for the Red Cross and other major charities, for example, remained at odds Friday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Louisiana authorities over when the group can begin delivering aid from four Louisiana warehouses.

"We just can't get into the areas where we're most needed," an official of the group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, said Friday afternoon. The group's deliveries from a Jackson, Miss., warehouse to people in Mississippi are well under way.

The official asked not to be identified because he isn't authorized to speak to reporters. Phone calls Friday afternoon to the group's headquarters in northern Virginia weren't returned.

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How to help Katrina victims:

Most charities recommend cash donations, not goods, when it comes to aid for the hurricane's victims. Here are some national charities you might consider:

_ American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) 1-800-435-7669 or 1-800-HELP-NOW.

_ America's Second Harvest (www.secondharvest.org) for hunger relief. 1-800-344-8070.

_ Catholic Charities (www.catholiccharitiesusa.org) 1-800-919-9338.

_ Church World Services (www.churchworldservice.org/) 1-800-297-1516.

_ Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org) provides easy access for donations to a number of charities, including the Humane Society of America (for pets) and various chapters of the United Way in Florida and Louisiana.

_ Salvation Army: www.salvationarmyusa.org.

_ MoveOn.org's matchmaking project to provide housing for the hurricane's homeless: www.hurricanehousing.org.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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