A challenge that corporate citizenship practitioners often face is how to engage their customers in their citizenship activities. Developing these relationships can strengthen customer loyalty and contribute to a brand’s reputation. eBay, which provides a way for consumers to connect with cause through the eBay Giving Works platform and raise valuable funds for charity by buying and selling goods, has not only been successful in engaging customers in its giving programs, but has extended its reach to nonprofit organizations, brands, celebrities and the general public.
To date, the initiative has raised over US $400 million to support causes that matter most to its community. According to Alison Perris, Head of Marketing for eBay Giving Works, the program has been successful because it drives loyalty and satisfaction with consumers. By allowing consumers’ interests to guide their giving decisions, eBay creates additional value for its users. eBay Giving Works is accessible to eBay’s existing users because it is integrated with its buying and selling platform. This allows eBay to leverage its core competency, facilitating transactions among consumers. “At eBay, we believe that every transaction makes a difference and the eBay Giving Works program is an extension of this,” says Perris. Over 30,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States have been supported through eBay Giving Works. And it has expanded to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada, each of which has developed a similar platform for charitable giving. “eBay is one of the world’s largest online marketplaces, so the traffic is there,” Perris stated. eBay Giving Works was the solution for how to leverage this marketplace for good.
Officially launched in 2003, after its initial release in 2001 immediately following 9/11, eBay Giving Works is a way for eBay to couple commerce with cause. Philanthropy has always been a part of eBay. However, the company wanted to find a way to use technology to support charitable causes. Instead of partnering with a third-party provider, eBay investigated ways to use its proprietary platform to achieve this end. Developing eBay Giving Works using internal systems has allowed eBay to exercise more control over the initiative and quickly respond to any technical and operational issues, should they arise. Maintaining control of eBay Giving Works also allows eBay to leverage other internal functions for promotion and security. The eBay Marketing group partners with the eBay Giving Works team to coordinate high profile auctions for charity, reinforcing the brand and eBay’s charitable work. eBay Daily Deals works with different categories of causes to highlight and support eBay Giving Works through their campaigns. PayPal Giving Fund, eBay’s nonprofit partner, vets each nonprofit on eBay Giving Works to ensure they meet regulatory and tax requirements. Partnering across functions and business units demonstrates the importance of eBay Giving Works to eBay’s internal stakeholders.
So how exactly are eBay users and nonprofits able to participate in Giving Works? When listing an item for sale, sellers can opt to designate between 10-100% of their sale to a nonprofit organization of their choice. When buying, users can search for specific items benefiting a cause that resonates with them. While paying for items, buyers also have the opportunity to donate $1 or more at checkout. eBay also reimburses selling fees in proportion to the percentage of the transaction sellers donate, encouraging participation. Nonprofit organizations registered with eBay Giving Works create their own profile pages in order to share their mission and list items for sale that benefit their programs. Perris believes that due to the flexibility of eBay Giving Works, the program reaches all levels of nonprofits, large or small.
eBay Giving Works has created an additional touch point for eBay users, becoming a source of differentiation for the company. eBay’s dedicated community of buyers and sellers has adopted the program as a way to meet personal charitable goals. Perris recounted a story of a user who started an eBay business selling items from artisans in Africa. After much success, this seller began using eBay Giving Works to generate donations back to those same populations who contributed to her business’ success.
People want to give back. Perris believes that the greatest opportunity for other companies is to develop ways to make it easier to do so. “Look at what you are good at and think about how you can bring that into the environment,” added Perris. “The question companies should explore is how to take their services and provide it to nonprofit organizations in a way that is useful to them.” Following its own advice, eBay continues to enhance its services for nonprofits and explore new and innovative ways to demonstrate the power of giving.