If you're planning to shop on the Internet, why not use those purchases to support a cause? Here's an in-depth comparison of five of the top socially conscious places to shop online. But first, a few words to the wise: These sites are for-profit businesses, and most of them take a small cut of the funds they raise. Also, you're required to submit proof of your purchases by forwarding order confirmations to the sites so that they can track your donations. And if you return an item, of course, your charity will not receive the donation.
|Good Cause||Lets you choose from among more than 5,300 organizations or add one of your own. Every time you view a page, refer a friend, or buy something, you donate money toward your cause.||Here's a site that brings new meaning to socially conscious shopping. It features products and companies that are socially conscious, environmentally aware, employee friendly, and community oriented.||All types of organizations can use this site. Each group gets its own Web page, where it can post information. Groups also earn money for ads, Web searches, and purchases that originate on their pages.||Schoolpop works like iGive.com and KickStart.com. But instead of choosing a cause, you select a school. Every time you shop, merchants give as much as 20% of the purchase price to the school.||A shopping portal that lets you raise money for a number of nonprofits around the country.|
|Good Idea||iGive members can claim a tax deduction on the portions of their purchases that get passed on to charities. The deduction applies only to the part of the purchase that's donated.||Besides products, there are also tips, articles, and services to help shoppers get involved in helping others. One such service allows users to donate a tree or grove to the Tree-People of Los Angeles.||Supporters can make that Web page their start page. They can also personalize it with news and stock info, weather reports, and favorite links. It may not be MyYahoo!, but it's not bad.||Since Schoolpop tapped into a database that lists all schools in the United States, you're likely to find your school, no matter how small or exclusive.||Not only does the site let you support charities by shopping at its home page, but it also builds "shopping villages," or cobranded sites with big nonprofits like Big Brothers and Big Sisters.|
|Good to Know||To receive credit for your purchases, you must initiate shopping through the iGive site. Any purchases made by going to a merchant's site, even if the merchant is part of iGive's mall, won't count.||Unlike some other shopping sites, this isn't a portal for funneling shoppers to other stores — it is a store. It makes its money the old-fashioned way, by selling products.||You get what you surf for. Each Internet search that a supporter initiates from the page generates a penny for the designated group. The group also gets 50% of the revenue for ads sold on its page.||Even if your school isn't active, you can still shop. The site will keep track of your purchases and apply the rebates owed to your school when it does sign up.||By organizing your shopping through separate pages for each large organization, it's easy to change causes by visiting the appropriate shopping site.|
|All the Difference||Since the site was launched, members have raised more than $350,000 for good causes.||Your purchases might not be earning money for charity, but by buying organic foods and ecofriendly bags and cleaning supplies, you're doing your part to help the environment.||You may never have to organize a car wash again.||You can buy everyday items like groceries, clothing, and school and office supplies from such vendors as Whole Foods Market, J. Crew, and OfficeMax.||This site guarantees that each worthwhile organization receives at least 5% of the fees merchants pay for the shoppers referred by GreaterGood.com sites.|
A version of this article appeared in the December 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.