In theory, online shopping sites should make it easier and faster than ever before to buy. The truth is that we spend more time shopping simply because we have so many options right at our fingertips.
Even though you might think of this as quite wasteful, the time we spend browsing eCommerce sites is an excellent opportunity to support worthy causes.
We’re bombarded with options when trying to donate. Fortunately, it isn’t too hard to pick a good one.
Here are five great ways to donate when shopping online. Chances are that you’ll find at least one address on the web that supports them using one of these methods.
1. Clip Virtual Coupons That Split the Savings
Many options offer downloadable coupons you can virtually clip to save cash. These companies split some of the savings with charitable causes.
Even if you only saved 10-20 percent on an order, this could quickly rack up over time. This is especially true for shoppers who regularly find themselves buying more expensive products online.
Firms that offer such service generally partner with a majority of the top eCommerce brands so you’re likely to find something that you’d normally shop for. At the same time, online retailers could potentially attract many people to their brand by simply offering coupons through one of these services.
2. Using the Amazon Smile Program
The single easiest way to donate while shopping online is to use Amazon Smile. You can check out the detailed review of Amazon Smile here, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll cover the basics.
Each time you make a purchase, Amazon will donate a portion of the value of that purchase to the charity of your choice. Different organizations have signed up with the program. Several prominent groups have promoted that they’re official partners on their site. At the time of this writing, there were over a million charities to choose from.
The publicity and the sheer variety of the participants have helped drastically increase the amount of money that the program has raised for charity.
The way the program works is very simple. A flat 0.05% of the cost of each purchase is added to each user’s donation total and earmarked for the charity they’ve chosen. That means users who spend $1,000 on Amazon in a year and contribute to the Smile program, will send $5 to a charity of their choice each time.
If you want to make sure that all of your eligible purchases result in a donation, make sure to start your purchase by visiting the Amazon Smile homepage. It’s a clone of the normal Amazon page, with all of the same products and services available. The only difference is that it will automatically add up your total purchase amounts to track your donation amount.
Feel free to donate with the Amazon Smile program whenever you shop with the eCommerce giant, because you’re not taking any money out of your wallet to do so. Just go to the appropriate homepage and shop like you normally would. It couldn’t be any simpler.
You get your items, and your favorite charity gets a check – no additional effort needed.
3. Making a Checkout Donation
Other major online retailers have put together similar programs. Most of these are closer to running a traditional Donorbox widget than using Amazon’s Smile promotion. Generally, when you purchase a product, you’re given a quick opportunity to donate from the same funding source you’re using to buy.
These programs tend to support well-known groups. Shoppers who regularly use eBay and other auction-style sites have probably seen an option to make a $1 donation when they complete a purchase.
This is a great way to give if you were going to donate to these causes anyway. If you see the name of a charity come up that you would have donated to otherwise, then this is a great way to make said donation. Best of all, since places like eBay add your donation onto your bill, for these donations you are free to use PayPal if you prefer.
4. Search for Products With a Charitable Search Engine
Several search engine tools split income with charitable organizations, so you can feel good about using them. You’ll be able to donate money to important causes simply by buying the same things you otherwise would.
Take Ecosia, which splits ad revenue with tree planting projects. They have a travel search tool as well as tools designed to help online shoppers find products and services that they would otherwise buy. This makes them an attractive option for those who want to donate a portion of their spending.
Meanwhile, the organization uses a carbon-neutral server system. So users who shop or search aren’t doing any additional harm to the environment. That means you can log in right this minute and you won’t generate any carbon emissions by doing the same things you’d always do online.
5. Use An Embedded Tool Positioned On a Site
An increasingly large percentage of webmasters are including a donation widget on their sites. This has helped a greater number of individuals support causes simply through awareness. People might not be aware that they can donate until it is brought to their attention. Often, this will be via a convenient box positioned next to the catalog that they were browsing through while shopping.
Granted, this sort of technology tends to attract a very different sort of consumer than simple purchase-time widgets ever would. These donation boxes are more appealing to those who may have never given much thought to supporting an individual cause.
There’s no reason that you can’t hit one on your favorite blog or artists’ feed to support their great work and work of other struggling creative professionals. Many people are starting to use these to raise money for individual sites they run. Others have adopted it as a way to collect donations for a cause that’s close to them and directly connected to what they’re doing online.
Open-source software projects are another great example of this in action. While you might not necessarily think of them as charitable, they run largely on donations. You might consider donating the next time you see a widget prominently placed on a favorite technology news site.
If you happen to be a webmaster yourself, then you might consider adding in something like Donorbox as a way of collecting money from your readers. Think of the projects you could support if you got simply $0.50-$1.00 from every single person who visits your site.
Don’t Forget About Holiday Buzz
One of the biggest times of the year for online shopping occurs with the winter holiday season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending are getting higher year after year — a trend that is certain to continue.
E-commerce holiday results infographic
Along with increases in spending have come many online organizations offering donation tools. People often feel generous during the holiday season. This helps in raising funds for needy causes that are otherwise unable to attract donors.
Groups that benefit from this are sometimes tied into the holiday season, however, they don’t necessarily have to be. For instance, environmental charities, animal shelters, and groups finding homes for the homeless push hard during holidays. The generosity of shoppers during this period helps many fundraisers in raising money for these groups.
On the other hand, there’s no reason that those who manage unrelated funds can’t get in on the action. Quite a few miscellaneous funds have found that this is the best time for them to do fundraising.
If you’re a webmaster, then you might consider putting up a donation widget around this time. This is especially true if you are attempting to monetize your operations and have had some difficulty doing so. Site operators who make an extra effort during this time can collect a surprising amount of money. They can then turn around and use to create even more excellent content. Over time, regular readers may buy stuff from their online stores, which is an instant way to donate while shopping.
If you don’t have your site, shopping online for a t-shirt or hat with the name of a favored podcast is an excellent way to support an independent content creator. Many programs offering free material on the Internet have this funding model, shopping at their outlets can be an excellent way to support them.
More ways to back your favorite content creators are likely to come around shortly.
The Charitable Role of eCommerce
Recently, entire stores have popped up on sites like eBay and Amazon that support individual charities. At the same time, organizations like Goodwill Industries have actual dedicated sales sites. More organizations will likely start to put together their eCommerce outlets that support their needs. Anybody looking for a good deal on products can turn to these stores so they can get a good deal and donate money at the same time.
Only time will tell just how many firms jump on this exciting bandwagon.