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United Way Gets Online Support

United Way of Atlanta has put its Presents for Partners toy drive online for the first time this holiday season through a partnership with e-commerce provider Nexchange Corp.

Nexchange, a United Way corporate supporter, is providing the design, navigation and daily management for two online programs — Toy Mall, where shoppers can purchase and donate toys online; and U Marketplace, where a percentage of the purchase price goes to United Way.

“We didn't have to change technology because our technology works on any Web site,” said Kathy Van Pelt, vice president of marketing at Nexchange. The Nexchange network of branded retailers is integrated into CNN.com and other popular content sites, where it aims to generate e-commerce revenue and increase site usage.

At Toy Mall, visitors can shop by age or category or choose featured items from Toy Favorites, Hot Toy Picks or Your Toy Headquarters. They can either purchase the toy as a gift for a friend or relative or have it sent directly to the United Way as a donation.

“We're hoping [Toy Mall] will boost our toy drive considerably this year. It makes it easy for folks to get involved,” said United Way spokesperson Teri Smith. “In the past, people had to buy the toy and drop it off at a Saturn dealership [one of United Way's partners] or a United Way office in Atlanta.”

Five thousand toys were collected last year; this year, the nonprofit hopes to double that amount, mostly through its online program, Smith said.

At U Marketplace, United Way supporters can purchase items from retailers such as Wolf Camera and Hickory Farms, with 5 percent to 25 percent of each purchase going to United Way.

“It's a tremendously exciting program, enabling people to support the community through something as simple as doing their shopping online,” said Mark Dvorak, vice president of marketing and communications at United Way.

Nexchange is looking at other nonprofit sites as possible hosts of its network, Van Pelt said.

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