Canadahelps.org has corporate backing

Before you dismiss this as yet another story about some twentynothing entrepreneurs who think they've come up with a killer idea for a new Web-based e-commerce venture, consider this:...

Before you dismiss this as yet another story about some twentynothing entrepreneurs who think they’ve come up with a killer idea for a new Web-based e-commerce venture, consider this:

The founders of Canadahelps.org, launched in November, have got the full support and backing of an astonishingly impressive list of corporate heavyweights, including four of Canada’s Big Five banks, as well as BCE, Nortel Networks, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Microsoft, among others.

So just what is Canadahelps.org? As the .org in its name suggests, Canadahelps is a legally registered charity that has been established to help non-profit organizations across Canada raise funds and recruit volunteers on the Web.

Featuring a search engine of charity profiles, an online newsletter and a secure donation page, Canadahelps.org offers similar functionality to Charity.ca, which launched last spring (see ‘Charity.ca aims to change the way people give’, Strategy Direct + Interactive, Nov. 6, 2000). The main difference, however, is that Canadahelps doesn’t charge charities anything for helping them raise money and find volunteers.

‘One of the basic premises of the program,’ explains Canadahelps.org CEO and co-founder Aaron Pereira, a 20-year-old fourth-year economics student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. ‘was to remove middlemen from the process. So, where a charity might give up 10 or 20 cents to a professional fundraiser, we wanted to do something where all the money would go to the charities.’

While the first $50,000 in start-up costs for the enterprise was provided by Pereira and his two partners, sponsors have since poured close to $2 million into the development and promotion of Canadahelps.org, which expects to raise about $1 million in donations in its first year of operation.

Sponsors are currently promoting the site through their existing channels, but Canadahelps.org is trying to develop a more co-ordinated approach to its marketing efforts, including searching out new cross-marketing opportunities.

‘We want to make sure we have brand integrity out in the market,’ Pereira says. ‘We’re watching that very carefully and keeping an eye open for companies that make sense for us to partner up with.’

So, where did Pereira, the acknowledged visionary behind Canadahelps.org, get the notion in the first place? ‘I was sitting in church one day watching the donation tray go around and I didn’t happen to have any money with me,’ he recounts. ‘I was, like, I wish I could give something later. That’s when the idea came to me.’