ECommerce and charity donít often cross paths; but when they do, they form a powerful connection. Virtual charity malls, like http://BuyForCharity.com and http://Benevolink.com, were designed to enable your Internet customers to give to causes they value, without spending any extra money. When your E-Biz joins a mall, your buyers make the purchases that they would normally make, and your store donates a percentage from every sale to your shopperís charity-of-choice.

The Basics
Some charity malls will let your E-Biz participate at no cost. Others are free if your store is recommended by a member, but charge a slotting fee for you to join unsolicited. However, ePhilanthropy pioneer Robert Grosshandler, founder of online charity mall http://iGive.com, finds that, even with paid memberships, merchants tend to return year after year. He explains, ìE-Biz owners who belong to charity malls most often find that allowing buyers to give something back enhances their overall sales.î

Online charity isnít limited to physical goodsóif you can sell it over the Internet, you can participate in a charity mall model. Shoppers can even buy online and pick up their item at your physical storefrontóthe key is that the transaction itself happens online.

You set your eStoreís donation percentage, based on what you feel you can afford. For longer margin businesses, like ink jet cartridges or womenís fashion, you may be able to give a higher percentage than you could with a shorter margin business, like computers.

Though altruism plays a role in Cause Marketing, itís important to remember that itís still marketing. The charities, in a sense, act as your affiliates. Consumers choose your store because it lets them support their charities. And you, in turn, pay the charities a commission for the sales they generate.

The Benefits
From the perspective of an Online Retailer, charity malls offer two substantial benefits:

ï Sales Advantage. When your customers can support a cause they care about, just by buying things they were buying anyway, that gives them a real motive to shop with you rather than your competition. The charity mall model is far superior to most Cause Marketing campaigns, where merchants determine the recipient of their contributions and simply hope that shoppers will connect to that particular charity. With eCharity malls, shoppers are able to choose where their funds are going, so they can feel good about helping out a cause that they personally care about.

ï Exposure. Many online charity malls are growing quite sizable. For example, iGive introduces its nearly seven hundred participating stores to an audience of about a quarter million active members.

The Bottom Line
While even national charity organizations struggle with a lack of funding, the biggest beneficiaries of online philanthropy are small and medium organizations that have limited fund-raising options. For these causes, virtual charity malls make a real impact.

As more and more people become comfortable purchasing on the Internet, eCharity becomes a greater proposition. Explains Grosshandler, ìThe merchants gain a sales advantage; the consumers get to donate to their favorite causes by doing what they were already doing; and the charities receive much-needed support. Itís a win-win situation for everyone.î