Charity site broadens its focus

LAST YEAR'S HEADLINE: Charity.ca aims to change the way people give

LAST YEAR’S HEADLINE: Charity.ca aims to change the way people give

ISSUE DATE: Nov. 6, 2000

SYNOPSIS: A new online enterprise is launched to simplify the process of donating to charity.

Charity.ca is formed by Canadian philanthropist Richard Ivey and Internet incubator NRG Group with the intention of changing the way people go about choosing which charities to support. Browsers can use the site to review original articles on a wide range of causes, get tips on how to make donations, and make secure online donations. The Web company takes an 8% transaction fee from every online donation.

An on- and offline brand advertising campaign is developed by Toronto-based Brandworks International to support the enterprise. Around 300 Canadian charities are registered and the site hopes to attract more. The aim is to help charities expand their donor bases and increase the level of donations they receive.

UPDATE: In May 2001, Charity.ca was bought out by Toronto-based IT consulting firm Sentient Inc, leading to some significant changes.

‘One of the first things we did was reposition the company from a donation portal to an entire technology solution,’ says Eric Rutten, president of Charity.ca.

‘What charities really need is a technology provider that can give them a complete Internet solution. The online donation element was only the start of that.’

In addition to its Web donation features, the company now provides Web development services, database building features and event registration. Donor management systems such as eTapestry and iMIS Fund Raising are also now on offer, as well as a tax receipting program, eTaxReceipts.

The Web site has now attracted 750 registered charities. Some 7,000 donors have registered and numerous additional visitors make use of the site without registering.

‘We are just starting to get organizations to look at us in a different light and see the benefits of the integrated approach that we now offer,’ says Rutten. ‘If a company just wants to get on the Web we provide that service, but if they want something more from us, we can provide that too.’

Another major change is the decision to focus marketing efforts only at the charities themselves and not directly at donors. A combination of Internet technology and participation at trade shows is used. ‘This was a deliberate strategy to take the shift away from advertising to donors,’ says Rutten. ‘In my view if you are trying to entice donors to your own Web site you are actually doing the charities a disservice. We want donors to establish a relationship with the charities themselves.’

The 8% transaction fee, which still applies, has not been badly received by donors, Rutten says. ‘Donors understand that nothing is free in this world. The fee is very low compared with the cost of other forms of fundraising.’

Although it’s early days for the revamped site, Rutten says it is popular with charities and is helping to boost donation levels across the board, despite a competitive atmosphere in the fundraising market. ‘The average gift that someone makes online tends to be higher than the average made through direct mail,’ he says, although he declines to give specifics.