order to gather new customers, many consumer commerce websites create affiliate
programs. If a person starting on your website clicks through a link to, say,
Amazon.com and makes a purchase, a percentage of the purchase price will be
sent to you.
number of companies are trying to make a business out of giving those affiliate
commissions to charity. While many of these companies keep some of the affiliate
commissions for themselves, two, 4Charity.com and CharityMall.com, guarantee
to donate one hundred percent of the affiliate commissions to charity. The charities
in this case include both nationally recognized charities and community-based
endeavors such as PTA's and churches or synagogues.
user must first register with the site. After that the user is free to select
any of the charities known to the site as the one to receive affiliate commissions
that accrue to the site from her surfing. Users must begin their shopping trips
at the CharityMall or 4Charity web site in order for the site to be recognized
by the vendor as the referring affiliate. This is the only way that the designated
charity can receive the affiliate commission.
is the older of the two. It was started in 1998 by Scott Dunlap, a student at
Stanford Business School, to take advantage of affiliate commissions from Amazon.com.
In a recent announcement the company stated that Mr. Dunlap would donate all
of his stock in the company to charity. As an example of the value of a charity
site like these, 4Charity allowed Internet shoppers to raise money for the Special
Olympics (via the affiliate commission paid by Amazon.)
had previously existed in a form where the merchants paid the charities directly.
However, many vendors had minimum limits for the size of the checks they are
willing to cut. Therefore, after being purchased in July 1999, the company began
taking the new approach of collecting the affiliate commissions directly and
then allocating them to charities according to the preferences of each member.
To ensure that the charities get their proper share of each purchase, users
are requested to use a special e-mail address, assigned by the site, when they
purchase from an affiliated vendor. In this way the confirmation notices for
the purchase will pass through the charity site and can be used to reconcile
accounts with the merchants. All such mail is immediately forwarded to the user's
real mailbox. CharityMall CEO Greg Hesterberg pointed out that the company uses
many security procedures to protect all user data. He also explained that a
user can choose whether to have their name forwarded to their charity of choice.
Independent IT consultant Thomas Mendelsohn, an advisor to CharityMall, notes
that since its relaunch in October the amount that the company has been able
to donate to charities has increase tenfold.
companies attempt to raise their own revenues by selling sponsorships, and from
certain bonuses such as for bringing new buyers to a vendor that are different
from the affiliate commissions. 4Charity also earns revenues from offering services
to corporations, and selling advanced Internet tools to nonprofits. Each company
almost 150 participating vendors. CharityMall shows the size of each merchant's
affiliate commission with the list of merchants, while 4Charity provides a separate
area with this and other information about each merchant.
Both companies appear to be legitimately taking advantage of the way that business
is done on the Internet to benefit the non-profit sector. Since each user can
choose how to allocate the funds received in her name, we recommend that information
about these companies be promulgated throughout your company. Not only can this
help bring more money to worthy causes, many of the vendors pay higher commissions
when affiliate sites achieve certain levels of referrals, so that bringing in
more users has a multiplier effect on the amount that goes to the various charities.
It's an easy way to do some good.