Big companies have always been pressured by customers, governments, and charities to take an active role in social responsibility. Technology is now bridging this gap.
CampusAuction, an online, Vancouver-based company that launched this August, connects students, businesses, and charitable organizations for the benefit of all. Open to any user, the site targets students by holding online auctions for products like laptops, gift cards, furniture, and more. For instance, a Toshiba tablet on the site went for $72.00 with an hour and 51 minutes left in the auction.
Unlike most companies, CampusAuction donates a large amount of their profits (either 50 per cent of net profits or 10 per cent of gross revenue—whichever is greatest) directly to charity organizations that bidders select by vote. Users can also choose to donate the difference between their bid price and the item’s sticker price to charity.
“Our president … did a lot of work at the University of British Columbia, and he kept seeing … companies coming onto campus and attempting to get in touch with students,” Alex Hobbs, managing director of CampusAuction, said. “But it’s a very difficult thing … and you’re just at the mercy of luck. You have to find the right student … with enough time to come and sit with you, and find out about your product.”
The site allows companies that hope to build brand loyalty to overcome this barrier, and facilitates student support for charities, even if they don’t directly donate.
The site also highlights corporations’ philanthropic work. Toshiba continues to be CampusAuction’s biggest contributor, promoting one of their favourite charities by supplying the online company with laptops and electronics. Starbucks, EA Games, Cineplex, and Staples are amongst the other companies that have partnered with the site. Charitable partners include Apathy is Boring, F-Cancer, and U:end Poverty.
CampusAuction raised $78,000 in charity funding during their nine-week trial in 2011. The site hopes to build traffic to increase awareness of both the charities and companies. They have already received more than 1.7 million web page views, more traffic than an advertising booth on campus could expect, and exposure that would be expensive for charities to buy.
CampusAuction, if nothing else, demonstrates the role technology can play in giving consumers an easy way to donate to charity and meet the needs of what Hobbs calls “not only the next generation of purchasers, but also the next generation of philanthropists.”