Giving new meaning to the term “buried treasure” and based on the hyper-successful online sales model Craigslist, anyone can sell a good or service to another person on Gift-it.com. In this case, proceeds of any sale go to a charity of the seller’s choice. Once the item sells, the revenues donated qualify for a tax receipt, much like any charitable donation.
Founder John Stewart says he and his team actually jumpstart virtual fundraising efforts, and provide an avenue for anyone to “gift” an item by selling a product or a particular service. Based in Ontario, Canada, Gift-it.com is only six months old, but chari- ties are rapidly adopting the idea, including The United Way, several food banks and Big Brothers & Big Sisters.
Much like E-Bay, Gift-it.com charges a minimal processing fee on the gross sale amount of every item “gifted,” says Stewart. There are over 85,000 charities in Canada and 1.4 million in the United States that can use this free service. Stewart tells us how he brewed the altruistic idea.
Can you explain how this works?
Gift-it.com is a global service and, like eBay, we want to list items nearest to your location. So what we do is look at the location you are surfing from and put your city or town prefix in before our URL yourcity. gift-it.com; this way we can serve you up the closest items.
Everyone has something of value in their possession that they can part with and feel good about donating. Our model flourishes under this new phenomenon. In addition, the largest donation so far has been amazing: The Sick Kids Foundation gifted nearly $4,000 worth of Go-karts to benefit Northumberland Hills Hospital in Canada.
One of the most interesting things we’ve discovered and tapped into is a younger, web- savvy demographic that uses online classified sites every day. Everyone has something they can gift; in many cases it’s easier than sending a check. Turning online classified ads into charitable dollars is good business.
How do you monetize?
Monetization for Gift-it.com is very straightforward. We take a small com- mission on items sold ranging from 5 to 9 percent, depending on the value. We also have advertising which is well targeted, and we charge any charity for positioning them at the top of the item lists. So, in effect, a charity can have the #1 spot always for a monthly fee. These are the primary sources of revenue.
What did you do before Gift-it.com?
I have always been keenly interested in taking common human behaviors and structuring them online. I’m a serial Internet entrepreneur and I helped launch six start-ups in the last 15 years; it’s been quite a pace.
My last three projects, for example, are PickupPal.com, which takes hitch-hiking and turns it into structured ride-sharing; vouchfor.com, which takes ‘word-of-mouth’ referrals and adds structure, as does gift-it.com, which takes the thrift shop idea to a whole new level. I always feel that there’s no reason to invent behavior, just facilitate it better online.
Where did Gift-it.com start?
In Canada. Once the World Wildlife Fund joined in Canada, and sent out our message to their Canadian audience and over 150,000 donors, it created quite a media buzz. We’re now in over 50 cities including Toronto, Montreal, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and the list is growing every day. Gift-it.com is a totally new way of thinking about donating, so it does take time for donors to post items. We see the number rising nicely but pioneering this platform means we need to be patient and always be encouraging to different charities to reach out and talk about Gift-it.com.