When Sona Mehring of Eagan, Minnesota, built a website for a hospitalized friend to communicate with family and friends, she didn't expect to become a charitable phenomenon. But similar website requests followed, and Mehring found that people preferred to keep in touch through a personalized, secure website rather than make the emotional chain of phone calls that normally accompanies critical illness. As unsolicited donations from end users flowed in for her mounting pro bono work, Mehring, 44, gave up her private web design business to start the nonprofit CaringBridge in 1997.
"CaringBridge takes cold, impersonal technology and uses it to serve a higher purpose in an intimate, powerful way," says Mehring. CaringBridge has created and hosts more than 40,000 free, interactive websites at CaringBridge.org. The hard work of the organization's six full-time employees earned the nonprofit $1 million in contributions last year