SocialGoods Expects Ease of Use to Drive Online Donations

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Hoping to increase charity donations, SocialGoods.com (www.socialgoods.com), Boston, is helping consumers donate a percentage of their online purchases, at no extra cost, to the nonprofit organization of their choice by shopping with a select group of retailers.


Unlike its competitors, SocialGoods.com is limiting the number of nonprofits it is partnering with to 200 according to William Morrison, president and founder of SocialGoods.com. "We are working with the larger type nonprofit organizations," he said, naming cause related groups CARE, Project HOPE, Teach for America, Oxfam America, The Giving Back Fund and Jump Start.


Twelve retailers currently offer products from nine categories: Amazon.com, books; J.Crew, apparel; Cyberian Outpost, computer products; Reel.com, movies; CDNow, Music Boulevard and CD Universe, music; OfficeMax, office supplies; eToys, toys; Beyond.com, software; PC Flowers and the Fragrance Store, gifts.


"We want to provide people with a list of stores and vendors that they would see in a regular mall," Morrison said. "We are also going to do filtering for consumers so that they know ... there aren't going to be any second tier vendors or second tier nonprofit organizations."


Morrison expects consumers to continue making donations all year round. "Most people are interested in making a socially conscious act and this allows them to do that. We believe that this is going to be appealing to a very broad base of people. If you keep the process simple, which we believe ours is, then people will be altruistic."


Melissa Baine, program manager at the Yankee Group, Boston, said she believes the concept has the ability to survive after the holiday season if the process is made easy enough for consumers.


"I think any vehicle that makes it easier for people to donate to nonprofits would fly," she said. "For most they don't see making donations as an easy process, but if you can do it so that it is easier for them, I think it's an idea that makes a lot of sense. Tying it in with a group of well-known merchants can also help it work out better, especially since online shopping is just taking off."


SocialGoods.com is promoting the site through an e-mail campaign to a list of donors it received from participating nonprofit organizations. A number of the nonprofits are also promoting the site to their donor bases through newsletters and mailings.


Once consumers reach the site they must first choose a nonprofit organization before being linked to an online retailer. If a consumer is going to visit two different retailers they will be able to choose two different organizations.


Morrison said the percentage of the purchase that is donated to the organization is based on the agreement that has been reached with the retailer. He said it will vary from 2.5 percent to 12 percent.


After clicking on the retailer of their choice, consumers will be linked to that retailer's page. The page will have a banner across the top letting them know what percentage of the purchase will be donated to the organization.


SocialGoods.com will receive checks from participating retailers at the end of each quarter containing the total amount of donations made to each nonprofit.


With a number of companies recently being launched that offer the same type service, Morrison said what sets SocialGoods.com apart from its competitors is that it offers a turnkey solution for nonprofits and offers consumers a wider variety of retailers to choose from.


"Shop2Give.com works with more than 600,000 nonprofits and because of that they can only work with retailers that meet certain technological criteria," he said. "We can basically work with any vendor."


Ami Kassar, CEO and founder of Shop2Give.com (www.shop2give.com), Los Angeles, which also launched last month, said integrating some companies into its program has been challenging at times but it has yet to have to turn anyone away.


"As of now we are working with 40 different vendors and getting about half-a-dozen inquiries a day from others who want to take part."

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