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LOS ANGELES — A San Francisco-based foundation is raking in donations over the Internet for nonprofit organizations — and paving the future path for Japanese NPOs in the process.

The Tides Foundation, which was established in 1976 to gather contributions from private citizens to help NPOs, has created the world’s first Internet “e-grants” foundation as its sister organization.

To make a contribution, simply click the mouse to choose an NPO listed on the Web site, and your offer will be accepted.

Drummond Pike, chairman of the Tides Foundation, says the organization — in Presidio, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge — has collected $700,000 through the Internet in the eight months since it was set up.

He says about 400 NPOs in the United States, active in preserving the environment and protecting human rights, are registered as recipient organizations.

Its annual contributions amount to about $30 million.

Shigetoshi Hirai, representative of the NPO Information Network Center in Gifu, who visited the Tides Foundation to be briefed on its activities, said: “I envy the foundation. I want Japanese NPOs to participate in it.”

In addition to the e-grants, the Tides Foundation has under its wing the Tides Center, which supports NPOs by handling necessary clerical procedures, such as those for salaries, insurance and tax.

When NPOs are financially able to do so, they become independent from the center. In the past 10 years, about 100 such organizations have set out on their own.

The International River Network in Berkeley, on the outskirts of San Francisco, is one of them.

IRN’s Aviva Imhof says that the Internet allows IRN to communicate with NPOs throughout the world and coordinate action globally.

Imhof also underlined the advantage of technology, such as e-mail for financially strapped NPOs, which relieves them of letters, faxes and other communication costs.

Kazuaki Okabe, a freelance Japanese journalist living in San Francisco, escorts missions from Japanese NPOs at the Tides Foundation. He sees the Net as key to expanding Japanese NPOs’ activities.

“What is most important is efforts of citizens to change society by themselves, without being dependent on the administration,” Okabe says. “Japan’s democracy lags 20 years behind other countries because of its failure to catch up with the Internet.”

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