From selling second-hand vintage records to brand new clothes, charities are being increasingly innovative in raising funds through e-commerce
Charities have been slowly embracing the benefits of e-commerce in their fundraising operations in recent years.
This has included selling campaign branded products on their website, to shifting their High Street retail operations of used goods online. Increasingly, charities are realising they can significantly boost their customer base by promoting goods nationally and globally for many products, particularly rare items.
But although this increase in ecommerce activity has been significant, for many charities online retail is still in its infancy.
A Charity Retail Association report found that only around half (55%) of charity retailers had an online selling operation. A lack of skills and a shortage of funding to invest in ecommerce are among barriers they cited.
Due to social distancing and lockdown curtailing High Street activity, COVID-19 has forced the hand of many those not yet embracing ecommerce.
This trend is also coupled with a growth in the public’s time online and appetite to support good causes via third party ecommerce platforms, as well as charities own websites and apps.
Here we outline five charities that are successfully embracing e-commerce to raise vital funds.
The Brain Tumour Charity sells original t-shirts to raise funds for its work. These are a good example of a charity using its ecommerce operation to promote its ethics and values as well as generate vital income.
The t-shirts are made by ethical and sustainable clothing brand Teemill, which is asking those who buy the items to send them back, when they have worn out so they can be recycled.
In addition, the t-shirts are part of the charity’s Great Minds campaign, which has been created by the charity’s young ambassadors’ group, which involves young people who have been impacted by a brain tumour.
The charity also promotes celebrity endorsement for the t-shirts, which are for sale on the charity’s e-commerce site for £19 This includes the broadcaster and TV presenter Nicki Champan, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Chapman said: “I may not be a top model but this comes from the heart. The Brain Tumour Charity have designed an inspiring line of t-shirts to celebrate great minds coming together to defeat brain tumours.”
The Great Minds range of clothing also includes jumpers and hoodies, retailing online for between £35 and £40.
"I love the Great Minds slogan because it points to the collaborative nature of raising money and visibility for those affected by a brain tumour — if we put our ‘great minds’ together, one day we will beat brain tumours,” said Alice, a Brain Tumour Charity young ambassador.
The international development charity has long been supplementing its High Street retail operation with e-commerce. It has a dedicated online shop, which is particularly successful for its retail operation, to attract a far larger audience for valuable, rare and collectable items donated by supporters.
An example is the charity tapping into a global revival in vinyl records. Among items available at the time of writing was a copy of the first Rolling Stones debut album retailing at £19.99 and a rare Spanish copy of the Jackson 5’s album Maybe Tomorrow, retailing at £149.00.
Among the top five charities, in terms of funds raised, using the e-commerce platform eBay for charity is the British Heart Foundation (BHF). At the time of writing the charity had more than 7,520 items available for sale using the auction site.
It has found eBay particularly useful for selling expensive and collectable items. Among its most lucrative items for the charity has been an Edwardian silver clock, which at the time of writing the highest of 17 bids was for more than £2,550. Meanwhile, a private number plate for a car was on sale for the charity for £849.
Following lockdown earlier this summer, BHF reopened around 400 of its shops as well as continued promoting its e-commerce operation.
“Our shops fund a huge proportion of UK cardiovascular research, said BHF Chief Executive Dr Charmaine Griffiths on the importance of commerce on the charity’s fundraising for medical research.
Campaigns for donations of charity shop stock have been particularly successful this year. For some smaller charities, this success was overwhelming, with too much stock for High Street stores alone to sell. This is where e-commerce operations have really helped. Stock can sit safely in distribution centres to be sent to online buyers.
Among small charities to experience a deluge of charity shop donations is St Barnarbas Hospice in Lincolnshire. It received more than 4,000 bags and boxes of donations in July, which is ten times the normal amount it receives at this time of year. The total number of bags and boxes was estimated to be about 15,000 and had to be stored at three cowsheds at Lincolnshire Showground.
To help sell items gifted by supporters it uses eBay, with more than 200 items for sale on the charity’s dedicated page on the auction site at the time of writing.
The charity also uses Amazon, through its Amazon Smile initiative, which donates a percentage of the price of items bought, to the charity
Each Christmas children’s cancer charity Maddi’s Butterflies gives children on oncology wards a brand new pair of pyjamas. This usually relies on supporters buying pyjamas themselves for the charity.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, the charity has turned to e-commerce to make it easier for supporters to continue to buy pyjamas for young patients.
This includes donating to a Just Giving page so that the charity can buy pyjamas on the supporters’ behalf. In addition, supporters are encouraged to buy pyjamas for the charities through Amazon Smile.
“COVID-19 will also affect how we collect the pyjamas this year,” says the charity.
“We understand that it won’t be as easy for people to go out to buy the pyjamas for us, as in previous years. To make it easier for our supporters to continue to help us, we have introduced a number of new ways to take part in our appeal.”
Are you using e-commerce in your charity? Let us know how in the comments below.