EBay Integrates Cause And Commerce For Social And Business Benefit

With its 300 million active listings at any given second, odds are you’ve probably bought or sold something on eBay. But did you know that eBay Inc. is comprised of over 30 businesses (including PayPal which facilitated over $145 billion in payments last year) and employs over 30,000 people?

In a webinar last month titled, “Integrating Cause and Commerce,” eBay’s director of nonprofit strategy, Sean Milliken, shared the common thread that weaves together this vast engine of commerce: eBay’s vision to catalyze positive change in the world. One component that breathes life into this vision is the company’s giving platform.

The eBay Giving Works Program

Dubbed “cause marketing in a box,” each time a seller lists an item with eBay, they’re given an opportunity to donate a percentage of their sale to their charity of choice. The seller’s resulting listing has a unique identifier that helps that item stand out on the site.

Everyone buying something on eBay (whether that item supports a nonprofit or not) has an opportunity to add a donation upon checkout.

In 2012, 186,000 sellers created more than 14 million charitable listings, resulting in $74 million raised for over 30,000 charities in 2012 and bringing the total raised to over $350 million to date.

Donors Are Good For eBay’s Business

Committed to measuring the success of their giving programs objectively, eBay has closely examined the business implications and found that buyers and sellers that participate in eBay’s giving programs are more loyal and active customers. Compared to non-donors, buyers who make a donation spend, on average, 36% more on the platform. Similarly, sellers who donate sell 35% more than those who don’t. These donating users have a significantly lower churn rate as well.

Cause Messaging May Outperform Traditional Incentives

Given the success of eBay Giving Works, it’s no wonder that eBay Inc. sees a tremendous opportunity to drive business and social benefit by taking the lessons learned through the program and applying them across its businesses. For example, PayPal recently launched a cause offer with a major retailer.  Half of eligible customers received an email offer in which they would receive $10 from PayPal for a $50 in-store purchase. The other half received a similar offer, but $5 would go to the customer and $5 would be donated to a nonprofit.

The result? The cause offer produced a higher return on investment for the retailer and for PayPal as well as generated welcomed awareness and support for the cause.

The Lesson

EBay Inc.'s work to power charitable giving may only be a small fraction of their Social Innovation strategy but their results speak volumes. In a recent study of the largest 2012 U.S. consumer donation campaigns run by companies, guess who ranked first in dollars raised for charity? You guessed it: eBay.

Arguably even more important is eBay Inc.’s commitment to tracking business benefit in their giving efforts. This foundational element – measurement -- is often missing in cause marketing initiatives, resulting in partnerships that are difficult to improve and ultimately unsustainable. As Panera Bread’s CEO Ron Shaich astutely reminds us, “Profitably provides possibility.”

Corporate philanthropy is admirable, but corporate social initiatives that generate business and societal benefits are the way of the future. Has your company invested in one or a bunch of "nice to do" cause-related programs? Take some time this summer to imagine how you could elevate them to "must do" and "must continue" status by making sure they are strategic to the health of your business and the creation of a better world. We'll all be glad you did.

1 comment about "EBay Integrates Cause And Commerce For Social And Business Benefit".
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  1. Howard Brodwin from Sports and Social Change, August 13, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

    eBay has added another layer to their CSR and cause platform with the "Common Threads" partnership with Patagonia that encourages people to buy/sell used Patagonia clothing. As David points out above, this is another great way for eBay to add business value through a cause related initiative.

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