Most consumers would be familiar with online marketplaces as a convenient one-stop shop where customers can find products or services for just about anything. Some examples include Amazon, Etsy and AliExpress amongst others. However, marketplaces also give back to society in a variety of ways.
This was clearly demonstrated through the response of several marketplaces to Covid-19, with several well-known marketplaces having made efforts to extend a helping hand to those who might need it. Shortly after Covid-19 became recognised as a global pandemic, eBay matched up to $1 million in contributions made by their U.S. customers who donate to Covid-19 response. Similarly, other marketplaces realised the need for aid in such a time of crisis, supporting the response to Covid-19. Rakuten’s Clutch Special Charity Fund is one such example of this. What is clear from these examples is that marketplaces can leverage the strength of the community to support those in need.
With the ease of access and global reach, online marketplaces have the potential to improve the living situations of many, making sure that beneficiaries and non-profits have access to the goods and services they need. Let’s explore some marketplaces that are centred around charitable causes.
Photo credit: Buengo
Buengo is a unique online marketplace that is centred around giving back to society. Founded by Fela Hughes, it was inspired by his experience of moving out of his flat and realising just how much clutter he had accumulated, an experience relatable for most. Marketplaces that facilitate reselling such as eBay, Carousell or Mercari have become so commonplace that it may be second nature for someone to sell their unused items and make some extra cash. However, this is where Buengo stands out from such marketplaces by allowing users to sell their items and donate their proceeds to good causes. Users can also choose to give away their unwanted items at no cost at all.
Aside from giving people an opportunity to donate to charity without giving away money they have, this encourages the reuse of items. Overall, Buengo helps with reducing the amount of trash that enters landfills and contributes to the circular economy. Their app works much like other marketplaces but also allows users to purchase items from charity shops. Their users are also able to select a cause they wish to contribute to from a wide range of charity partners such as Action Against Hunger, Freegle and Bone Cancer Research Trust. Buengo also functions as a portal through which users can sign up for volunteering opportunities.
Photo credit: TechSoup
TechSoup is a nonprofit which provides other NGOs, social benefit organizations, and charities with technical support and technological tools. TechSoup makes various software such as Microsoft Office or Zoom more accessible to nonprofits by offering them at a discounted rate on their nonprofit tech marketplace. Hence, TechSoup assists nonprofit organisations and charities in gaining access to rapidly-changing technology which might otherwise be prohibitively expensive.
In response to Covid-19, TechSoup assisted nonprofits to transition to remote work, giving access to over $440 million worth of technology and other resources needed to do so. TechSoup also released a free course on pivoting to remote work, training learners to use applications such as Microsoft Teams.
3. MarketPlace: Handwork of India
Photo credit: MarketPlace: Handwork of India
MarketPlace: Handwork of India is a nonprofit that functions as a marketplace specialising in women’s apparel and home decor. It was conceived from Pushpika Freitas’ resolve to empower women in giving them a stake in decision making, educating them and equipping them with the tools to earn a living while raising their families. As such, MarketPlace: Handwork of India has a strong focus on empowering women to break the cycle of poverty through the creation and selling of their handmade apparel and interior decor.
The marketplace started in 1980 in Mumbai with only 3 artisans making hand-sewn patchwork quilts. As they grew, it expanded into clothing lines and today they consist of 11 independent co-ops and over 400 artisans. Besides equipping women with useful skills like sewing and embroidery, they offer educational opportunities and assist artisans to overcome their personal, financial or cultural difficulties.
It stands to reason that online marketplaces show much potential to be used for the greater good. These marketplaces are truly versatile tools that can be leveraged to support a variety of causes, contribute to the equitable distribution of goods and services as well as empower workers.