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Using Magento for charity ecommerce

It’s a competitive world especially, it seems, for charities and not-for-profits.

With over 188,000 registered charities in the UK alone and a recession-hit economy, it’s getting more difficult to raise the much needed funds. Public sector cut-backs and the demands of ‘the big society’ make it even more important for charities to maximise income whilst reducing costs. One way to achieve this goal is through developing an online ecommerce site. 32 million UK consumers shop online. The value of goods they buy online is around £52bn.While selling online is big business for many retailers, the same cannot be said for charities. However, using a free open-source software like Magento will help charities open new, multiple revenue streams without impacting on their overheads. Most small charities will say that, unlike Oxfam and the top fundraising charities, they don’t have any products to sell. I think all charities have something to sell if they really think about it, and Magento will allow them to find buyers, upsell and retain customers for future fundraising. Let’s look at some examples: 1. By the Book A friend of mine runs an annual book sale every year for a South African charity she runs called Gumboots. She receives hundreds of donations and sells lots but last year ended up with around 300 books unsold. A kind book dealer gave her £100 for them! With Magento she could:

  • Create an online charity bookshop
  • Create an new URL which will help with the charities Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), link this to their current website and use Magento’s SEO tools to get the site noticed
  • Use the newsletter signup and marketing facility to tell all their supporters about the books
  • Use the website’s ‘email a friend’ function to spread the word even further
  • Use the up-selling facilities to ask for one-off-donations or a regular standing order

I can guarantee she would have made more that £100 – and that’s not including the additional marketing opportunities. I cannot think of any charity, large or small, that does not have donated books, clothes, DVDs/CDs, etc that could not be sold this way. 2. Virtually cost free In October last year, The National Trust became the latest charity to launch a range of virtual gifts, aiming to raise £75,000. Virtual gifts are ideal for smaller charities as they cost nothing to produce but allow the charity to deliver a more focussed message. They also make an ideal gift, and allow for the charity to cross sell. Using Magento will allow even the smallest of charities to:

  • Set up a virtual gift shop
  • Customise email responses – providing another opportunity to ask for donations or sign up for further communication
  • Easily take payment via credit card, Paypal or lots of other payment portals
  • Update the catalogue – adding Virtual Christmas cards for example

Whatever work a charity is involved in, there must be at least a dozen virtual gift ideas – and that’s a dozen fundraising opportunities. 3. The more, the merrier Often smaller charities struggle against bigger charities simply because they are smaller. Regardless of size, the fact is these smaller charities can develop strategies that match their larger ‘rivals’. One way is to set up multiple online shops. Not only does it offer multiple revenue streams, increase cross selling and allow you to target specific markets, it makes the charity seem bigger than it is And it delivers more income – for example the Woodland Trust have a diverse range of shops, and conversion rates are better for ecommerce than for their transactions overall – one shop averaged 4.51% compared with 0.2% for the charity overall. So if you have an army of volunteer cake bakers or knitters, have a shop for their goods. If you have a younger volunteer team willing to produce some funky T-shirts or selling stunning photos, you can have another shop for them. In fact having such shops allow you widen your volunteer base, using their artistic or craft skills to supply goods to the shop. With Magento you can:

  1. Manage multiple shops from one admin dashboard, and give admin rights to other volunteers willing to ‘take ownership’ for a shop
  2. Develop individual ‘shop-fronts’ using customisable templates
  3. Allow buyers to create online accounts. They can track orders online – reducing the need for support staff – and are more likely to return
  4. Offer coupons and vouchers that can only be redeemed online

There’s no reason why your shop cannot look, feel and function like the best ecommerce sites around, and that will mean improved donor confidence and retention, further marketing opportunities, increased chances for cross selling – and ultimately more revenue raised. If you are a charity based in the West Midlands, and just getting started with e-commerce or maybe even a Magento project, you may feel overwhelmed. It is likely you will need the support of a company offering Web Design Birmingham services, particularity one that specialises in Magento design, development, training and consultancy. But don’t despair; there are now lots of  Magento development specialists available that you can get advice from. Don’t forget to use blogs and forums where possible as there will be lots of people who are happy to provide further support and talk about their own experiences using Magento. Author: Brett Sidaway – freelance writer who contributes to a number of websites on a range of topics from health, design and the internet.

Image credit – Maria Elena


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