A Canadian shopping portal is hoping to embed charity into e-commerce transactions through a Web-based affiliate program.

Cangive.ca relaunched this week as a gateway to more than 75 merchants including Eddie Bauer, the Disney

Store and Amazon.ca. Consumers who shop through the site to buy items, bid on auctions or purchase promotional items for business will see a portion of their purchase go towards a charity of their choice.

If a consumer wanted to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada, for example, they choose it on the Cangive site prior to moving onto a merchant’s Web site. The charity’s number in Cangive’s database is then attached to a string of code and sent to the merchant. That string of code identifies the purchase as coming through Cangive and tells Cangive which cause the money is intended to support.

According to Craig McKinnon, Cangive’s founder and president, merchants formulate donations based on how much an online purchase surpasses a pre-determined threshold. A merchant may require a consumer to spend at least $25, for example, after which a portion goes to the charity. Thresholds are determined by the merchant and up to 15 per cent of the purchase may go to the charity. Money is distributed to the charities approximately 60 days following a purchase through the site, McKinnon said.

Cangive began about a year and a half ago as a bare-bones site with only a handful of merchants, MacKinnon said. The site overhaul was partially completed through a co-op program with students of Willis College. Where members were once required to sign in on each visit to the site, a checkbox will set a cookie that remembers them, MacKinnon.

While sites like Charity.ca are set up for users to make direct donations to their favourite cause, MacKinnon said Cangive borrows from American Web sites that make donations a part of the online shopping experience.

“”It’s not money out of your pocket,”” he said. “”It’s part of the transaction that’s absorbed by the various merchants. . . I think they end up just writing it off as marketing expense anyway. There’s no need for them to write it off again as a tax write-off.””

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada signed on as one of the Cangive charities in August. Dawn Regan, who works at the charity’s national office, said Cangive is so far the only shopping portal with which it is affiliated.

“”We have our own site already and our own online program,”” she said. “”When I evaluated this one, it was an easy one that MADD could do without a lot of work.””

Cangive has been concentrating over the past year to find Canadian merchants to add to the site. Attracting those merchants sometimes involved contacting them directly or dealing with third-party companies that manage affiliate programs, according to MacKinnon.

“”There’s a great deal of competition,”” he said.

Regan said the Cangive model is a great branding opportunity both for the merchants and the charities involved.

“”The way we looked at it is that people were going online for their own purchases anyway,”” she said. “”Why not have some benefit for the charities as well?””

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