Charity shops are more popular than ever but could they work online too? | Miratel Solutions

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Could signal the rise of the online charity shop?

Thrift shops, resale stores or charity shops call them what you will but the thrift store is a very significant revenue stream for nonprofit fundraising that we rarely have cause to discuss here on the blog. Let’s look at the facts though; it is estimated that in the United States over $13 billion is raised annually via the tens of thousands of thrift stores nationwide, in fact the final number of stores may be in excess of 100,000. Shoppers are often looking for a bargain but also typically conscious of the fact that their purchase will help a nonprofit to raise funds, of course the inventory for the shops is generated by millions of kind donations made right across the country. It is estimated that just over one in six Americans visit a nonprofit thrift store at least once per year and almost half of those visit four or more times per year.

Until recently thrift shopping at nonprofit stores involved visiting a traditional bricks and mortar retail establishment but that could be changing soon and it could provide new revenue streams for nonprofits.

A new venture called is gradually capturing the imagination of donors and nonprofits alike and with the addition of an organization as large as the American Red Cross it may now get noticed by many more people. The premise is quite simple really; approved nonprofits register with the site and donors are allowed to advertise their products (which can be literally anything within reason) to be sold online with the majority of the purchase price then being donated to the charity. In addition the website acts as a virtual warehouse for the inventory meaning that the nonprofit doesn’t need to be involved with physical merchandise, the buyer pays a set amount for USPS shipping and a pre-paid shipping label is generated by the seller and the item is picked up by USPS from the seller’s location.

When I’m on the lookout for new and creative methods being used by nonprofits to generate fresh fundraising revenue I can’t help but wonder if this might be a growing concern as a fun, unique and easy way to help nonprofits raise funds. Appealing to the largest cross section of your potential donor audience should be of interest to all nonprofits and a virtual thrift store might just create a small new niche market that was previously ignored.

You can learn much more about exactly how works by visiting the website or via their FAQ pages on the site. At present the American Red Cross is the largest associated name signed up which in turn allows their supporters to donate items as diverse as household goods, emergency supplies or even vehicles to be listed for sale on the site. At present any registered 501(c)3 organization can launch an account to open an online store within the site entirely for free, another great advantage for donors if they are still able to claim tax write-offs for the donations exactly as they would if they drove the birds down to their local thrift store.

It’s also encouraging to see that the inventory database is powered by Amazon AWS which should ease the process of listing donations directly on the site by the donor. I think another huge advantage will be for the donor that doesn’t have a carload of household goods to drive down and drop off at the thrift store, yet may want to sell a few valuable items to help out their favorite charity by raising funds.

Take some time to browse or shop at if you can, I’ve had a look this afternoon and there goods ranging from electronics to art and everything in between but remember it is early days for the site. I’d be very curious to see what you think of the idea and if you are a nonprofit whether you might decide to register with the site.


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Miratel Solutions is a Toronto call centre, eBusiness, and letter shop mail house specializing in professional fundraising services including PCI compliant inbound telephone fundraising, outbound telephone fundraising, online fundraising, lottery fundraising services, donation processing and receipting and direct mail fundraising services. We are committed to our CSR business values in all our business decisions and advancing the missions of the nonprofits we proudly serve.

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