Shop ‘Til It Helps
Can a dozen dogs find shelter in a leather briefcase? They can if the briefcase was purchased through Benevolink.
No, the Atlanta-based company isn’t in the business of selling amazing expandable briefcases. Rather, it allows consumers to direct corporate dollars to the causes of their choice just by shopping online at more than 200 retailers such as Gap, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Harry and David, and Staples.
Launched in fall 2003, the Benevolink Web site essentially is an online mall that consumers and organizations enroll in for free. Shoppers log on, then select the store they’d like to shop at from a drop-down bar, whereupon they’re launched into that store’s Web site to make their purchases.
Retailers pay Benevolink a fee to be part of the program and then, based on the purchase amount, the retailer donates a percentage in unrestricted dollars to one or more organizations the customer chooses. Members can change their preferred organizations quarterly.
The amount of giving varies from retailer to retailer, but nonprofits earn, on average, 5 percent to 7 percent of the total purchase, according to Karen Clay, vice president of nonprofit relations for Benevolink, which doesn’t profit from direct giving by consumers.
“What I think is so neat about it is your traditional consumer, in the course of their daily shopping, can become a philanthropist using corporate dollars,” says Jocelyn Harmon, director of development and communications for the National Council of Nonprofit Associations, which recommends Benevolink as an online fundraising tool.
Nonprofit organizations don’t have to enroll in order to be eligible to be selected to receive donations, but enrollment in Benevolink entitles them to an online toolbox that includes more than 30 designed and customizable templates for fliers, direct mail and other materials promoting Benevolink as a giving option. Each quarter, enrolled nonprofits receive the funds allocated to them by consumers and a corresponding donation summary report that lists each donor, how much he’s given and his opt-in information, which nonprofits can add to their own databases.