Giving Works Spreads the Wealth

eBay program offers benefits for charities and sellers.

by staff writer
- Nov 06, 2008

Painting helped Betty Refour recover from a back injury she sustained during a turbulent plane ride 10 years ago. Now she's putting her brush to work to help raise money for several nonprofits through eBay's Giving Works program.

"It makes me feel like I'm doing something to give back, something to give to people who are struggling with these diseases," she said.

Giving Works allows eBay sellers to donate a portion—or all—of their item's final sale price to one of the 18,000 nonprofits in the U.S. and U.K. registered with MissionFish, the organization that licenses and administers Giving Works.

Refour, owner of Art by Betty Refour, opted for The Autism Society of America, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a couple others, in honor of her mother and grandmother, who died after battling cancer, and her sister, who has autism.

So far, online sellers like Refour have raised more than $91 million for charitable causes through the program, reports Clam Lorenz, MissionFish's vice president of operations.

Blue-and-yellow ribbons appear next to items listed using Giving Works, distinguishing them from other similar products, and helping to make a difference for well-known and small nonprofits.

"I think Americans have a desire to help and that is playing out on eBay," Lorenz says. "eBay often reflects the intentions of Americans, and one of those is supporting organizations they believe in."

How it works

To set up a listing using the Giving Works program, sellers first choose one of the MissionFish-certified nonprofits to donate to. They then decide how much of the final sale price they want to donate—contributions from 10 to 100 percent are allowed.

Auctiva users can set up a charity auction using Auctiva's one-page listing designer. To use the program, you first need to sign up through eBay. Then, when creating a new listing with Auctiva, locate the eBay Giving Works section in the Item Details section of the lister, browse to choose a charity and select the percentage to donate. Non-Auctiva users choose the option when they create a listing on eBay.

Once the item is sold and the transaction completed, MissionFish collects the donation from the seller and delivers the money to the nonprofit, minus a processing fee. Finally, MissionFish gives the seller a tax receipt on the nonprofit's behalf.

All eBay sellers who have accounts in good standing can create listings using the program, although charities must be registered with MissionFish before they are eligible to receive funds. eBay also credits insertion and final value fees back to sellers who use the Giving Works program.

InnerCityGoods owner Karen Peters—a cancer survivor and Auctiva user—plans to use Giving Works to raise money for breast cancer, she says. She will join the more than 3,000 Auctiva users registered for Giving Works.

Charitable giving attracts buyers

We all have choices about where we buy things, and our buyers feel an affinity with the values that we have

Nonprofits aren't the only ones who benefit from eBay's Giving Works. Refour says the items she's listed under the program have sold better than those that weren't listed using the program.

"I think people are more attracted to Giving Works because they've been affected, they are struggling with breast cancer (or another disease)," she said. "They might like the items or they're just looking for a way to support the cause."

Elizabeth Bennett, co-owner of Africa Direct, says there are two aspects to Giving Works: A desire to do humanitarian work and a business aspect. Her online store has been selling African art, ethnic jewelry and trade beads since 1997.

Giving Works sounded like a good way to help people in Africa—a cause dear to Bennett's heart—but she says she wouldn't have been able to give as much if it weren't for eBay. And she wouldn't be able to donate money to good causes if she wasn't making enough profits to cover the fees, she adds.

"We've given more than $28,000 in the last two years," she notes. "I write my own checks, but I can't do it at that rate."

Besides, associating a cause with one's product seems to draw buyers and promote customer loyalty.

But getting permission to use a well-know organization's name can be costly, Bennett notes, so charitable giving can help sellers. That's when the business and humanitarian sides of programs such as Giving Works come together.

"We all have choices about where we buy things, and our buyers feel an affinity with the values that we have," she explains. "They know their money's being spent in ways that improve their planet."

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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