Running a charity through E-commerce


buy42Charity for value

“Everything has value.” When Ms. Xian Zhou established the Buy42.com website in 2011, which is based in Shanghai and is the first charity e-shop in China, she planned to create a sense of social responsibility through the slogan: “Make everyone benefit from charity.”

In her daily business operation, Zhou leads a team and combines the e-commerce concept with the standard international charity shop model. Buy42.com innovation lies in the combination of using e-commerce and a charity shop as their operating platform. The funds raised from the charity shop serve to help disabled people in China obtain training and job opportunities.

Over the past two years, more than 20,000 corporations and individuals have become registered members of the website. Companies such as Bayer China and Intel directly contacted Zhou and her team to make donations. Currently, the majority of its members are located in major cities in China.

“This is not in the least a one-way, giveaway. Everyone who is voluntarily involved in our charity events will benefit from the process.” she said. The concept of sharing and creating a win-win result for all participants are cornerstones of the e-business that her management team is operating.

In Shanghai alone, there are approximately 20 unused clothing items or accessories in every woman’s wardrobe. To each of those individuals, the total value of those items may not amount to much, but in line with the Buy42.com slogan, “everything has value.”  According to Buy42.com, the revenue generated from the items donated to sell on the website is used to provide training and access-to-employment opportunities for those people with disabilities in China. There are more than 80 million people with disabilities affecting 140 million families in China. The most important opportunity in life for those disabled people is “a sustainable job with dignity”.

Integrating charity with e-commerce

Zhou has always looked for sustainable business practices which will help to solve social problems, even when she was studying in the UK. It was actually the UK charity shop model that inspired her to create her business: collect materials and goods which are unused in every corner of society, resell them at comparatively lower prices and devote the revenue to charity events. She felt it was her mission to introduce such a good and mature business model in China. More than that, she brought the e-commerce operational method into her charity business; an innovation which she believed would be useful to attract the young Chinese Internet users.

 Transparent in operation

Today, the government-run charity organizations in China have yet to regain the public confidence considering they have previously been associated with corrupt activities. Within such an environment, the Buy42.com website strictly sticks to its policy of recording every single transaction of capital flow in daily operations.

Zhou demands a clear accounting statement regarding how every donated item is used and where the revenue is going. Additionally, an independent third party is called in to examine the costs of charity events organized by the website and the management team has set up an internal committee to ensure a standardized examination process is in place.

Proactive interactions with donors, beneficiaries and volunteers

The website keeps in contact with each donor and ensures that they can easily follow every step of when and how their donation will be used. Through this practice, Zhou aims to establish a new mindset on charity – that a highly interactive culture should be what matters most in the end.

Also, those people who accept donations have to be in contact with the website, so that the company can share information on capital use and effectiveness. What supports such a process is that beneficiaries have to accept the Buy42.com website’s operational philosophy in transparency from the very beginning and they must contribute to setting up an efficient mechanism for communication.

In addition, Zhou and her management team pay great attention to communicating their operational mindset with volunteers while providing them with training. Through training sessions, these volunteers are expected to not only identify with the purpose and ambition of the charity, but also have fun doing it.

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