Internet Start-up Links Nonprofits with Retailers

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Internet start-up Shop2Give.com is taking some of the deciding power from leading retailers and putting it into the hands of consumers. Its Web site launched last week will allow consumers to decide which nonprofit organization their purchases will go to.


Consumers can choose to make donations, at no additional charge to them, to any of the more than 640,000 registered nonprofit organizations throughout the country, ranging from national fundraising organizations to local churches, schools and synagogues. Political parties are the only organizations excluded.


Shop2Give.com (www.shop2give.com), Los Angeles, is working with 15 Internet retailers and hopes to increase that number to 20 by Dec. 1. Among those taking part are J. Crew, Brookstone, Omaha Steaks, Cyberian Outpost and K-Tel Express.


According to Ami Kassar, CEO and founder of Shop2Give.com, the idea came from his desire to do something different with Web-generated donations.


"In the past, it has always been up to businesses and corporations where the money they donated went to," he said. "We are asking companies to take that power to choose and put it in the hands of consumers."


Kassar said consumers can only make donations if they go to these sites through Shop2Give. In order to get to participating retailers, consumers must first choose a nonprofit organization.


Promotion for the site is being done through a "free media publicity driven campaign," said Brett Holmes, a spokesman for the company. A mailing of 5,000 postcards is being dropped to people in the philanthropic press, decision makers in the philanthropic field and people in the hi-tech, consumer and retail media, he said. "We are hoping that will generate a good amount of buzz for us now. We will also be relying heavily on cross-promotions with our online retailers as well as some major nonprofits."


Holmes said Shop2Give decided to run an unconventional marketing campaign in order to help build credibility through trade publications and newspapers.


"In the online and philanthropic world, credibility is everything," he said. "And the way you establish that is through selling your message through the papers and not paid advertising."


At the site, after a consumer clicks on the "Go Shopping" button, the next page will give them three categories to help choose a nonprofit organization. They can choose from the top 10 most popular nonprofits receiving donations from the Shop2Give site, their favorite cause, or their favorite nonprofit.


After choosing an organization and reading its profile, they will be linked to a page with a listing of participating retailers. Under each retailer will be listed the percentage of each purchase that will be donated to the organizations. Amounts range from 2 percent to 5 percent and are chosen by the individual retailer.


After clicking on the retailer of their choice, consumers will be taken to their home page.


"A tracking device will let retailers know which visitors came from our site," Kassar said. "After a purchase is made the retailers will send the percentage designated for donations to Shop2Give."


There is no specific dollar amount Shop2Give is hoping to raise. Kassar said only that he hopes to raise "lots of money" in the first year.


"We feel this is something that will catch on, especially with the conscientious consumer," he said.


"Letting someone know that they are helping people is a powerful motivator," said Laura Berland, co-founder and executive vice president of ORB Digital Direct, an online direct marketing company. "I think this will be good for the holiday shopping season, but it is also an approach that has legs."


Berland said there is a need to give consumers and prospective consumers more incentive to take part in e-commerce.


"People like feeling good about doing things for others while they are doing for themselves," she said. "There is a need to try and broaden the number of users making purchases on the Web. And giving them an incentive to help out will help build consumer confidence in using the Internet."


Shop2Give will announce some of its online co-branding agreements with participating online retailers after Dec. 1.

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