eBay buy MissionFish eBay for Charity administrators

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eBay have just acquired MissionFish, the charity which administers collection of funds for items sold through eBay for Charity (known as eBay Giving Works in the US).

MissionFish has been acquired from the Points of Light Institute and initially they’ll continue to work with Points of Light to process and deliver eBay.com donations. For the future eBay will be setting up a new nonprofit, staffed by members of the MissionFish team which will be responsible for donation handling. (MissionFish is already a registered charity in the UK).

As well as any funds donated MissionFish also process Gift Aid where the seller is a UK tax payer. Using Gift Aid means that for every pound you give, the charity will receive an extra 25p from the Government.

MissionFish is funded by a deduction from donated funds processed. In the UK their take is between 3% and 20% (their average take is under 15%). They do not charge charities for registering with MissionFish to receive donations, any fees to Charity Direct Sellers for using eBay for Charity and charge no commission on Gift Aid, which is passed on in full. MissionFish has no shareholders and any surpluses generated are reinvested in fulfilling its charitable purpose.

Charities Direct indicate that MissionFish in the UK has an income of £2.82m with expenditure of £2.63m leaving a surplus of £190,000.

It’s never made much sense to me that eBay for Charity and MissionFish were separate organisations, especially as Charities Direct indicates MissionFish in the UK are headquartered in eBay’s Richmond Offices anyway. Whilst it’s a given that a separate organisation is needed to administer charity donations it makes sense for MissionFish and eBay for Charity to work closely together.

However I’m still confused as to the ultimate aims of eBay for Charity – there are three possible options, none of which appear to be fully exploited:

  1. To be used to increase sell through rates on eBay – Personally I have no qualms in admitting that I’ve used eBay for Charity purely to raise the profile of my eBay listings, and to drive traffic from an eBay for Charity listing to my eBay shop and other listings. However I don’t see eBay making full use of eBay for Charity to increase sell through rates or to achieve higher average selling prices.
  2. To be used as a PR opportunity on eBay – If the ultimate aim of eBay for Charity is for PR purposes then it’s not being maximised. eBay have run many “high profile” auctions over the years and still do on a regular basis, but they’re not always widely publicised, even within the eBay community. The Daily Deals get more promotion than eBay for Charity events.
  3. To raise as much money as possible for charity – Whilst those working directly within eBay for Charity are wonderful people, I’m not sure that eBay as a corporate company puts helping charities at the top of their priorities. That’s not to say eBay for Charity hasn’t raised a fantastic amount of money for good causes (over $241 million since the program started), but it could raise a lot more if this was eBay’s aim for the program. To put the $241 million raised over eight years into perspective, eBay reported $551 million free cash flow during the first quarter of 2011

eBay need to decide exactly what they want from their charity program, but I’m not sure that they have yet figured out where it sits within the organisation or what their aims for charity programs are. Hopefully the acquisition of MissionFish will raise the profile of charitable giving within eBay, and they’ll decide what the ultimate aim of the charity program is to be.

10 Responses

  1. If ebay wanted more people to use missionfish they would:

    1) Make it more automatic so you never saw the money at all — If you said 10% out for X charity it would pay you 90% as opposed to having it pay you 100% and then you have to donate 10% later.

    The way they have it set up you then have to track it manually for tax purposes wheras if they did it so you never saw the money at all then you wouldnt. This will be more of an issue if they ever make it so you can not tax deduct charitable donations but I will say that this simple issue is why I do not donate more. I simply do not want my tax return to end up audited because I am giving more than X percent away to charity.

    This is especially important if you are giving 100% of an item to charity where you shouldnt be bothered at all with anything other than shipping the item off to the buyer.

    2) It SHOULD raise your standing in best match. That it does not raise your listings is kind of silly. Yes you get an icon etc but even a little raise would make people think about it more.

    3) Doing a certain amount of charitable sales should raise ALL of your items somewhat in best match. You could also get a charitable seller icon. Lets say that if you overall gave at least 3% of your take to charity you would gain this standing.

  2. Total Income £2.82m
    Total Expenditure £2.63m

    surely thats 2.63 million in donations to charity if its the other way round it stinks

  3. If its £190,000 donated to charity, then it appears little more than a vehicle for promoting Ebays Social Perception agenda.

    If Ebay were really serious, they would fund the running costs…

  4. no way could that operation be run for £190K…if they are a registered charity or company, the records can be pulled surely.

  5. It would be nice to have clarification on this.

    If Ebay are operating a charitable arm, they should be totally open with how they are using peoples donations.

  6. However I’m still confused as to the ultimate aims of eBay’

    TO RULE THE Whole Online transaction WORLD

  7. A very thoughtful post from Chris here, and certainly we hope that the new structure will raise the profile of eBay for Charity, and help strategic thinking about increasing its impact.

    On the issue of donations versus operating costs, in our last financial year we paid out about £3.2m in donations to charities, and spent about £170k in cash on our own operations in the UK.

    The audited accounts are a little confusing, e.g. the income figure from the Charity Commission website includes in-kind donations (technology and office space for example), and some grant income, as well as cash donations from eBay users.

    Nick Aldridge
    CEO, MissionFish – UK

  8. It is funny this happened, I work for a charity on Ebay, and just today Ebay sent us a threatening email to force us into a corner and use missionfish. Here is a little secret for you to google about on missionfish, as an insider with inside information i tell you this, alot of charities never see the money that people pay via missionfish, and it is well known in my industry. so if we are forced to just list items and do all the work so some idiot can control our money than i think we will move on, and give some other for-profit our money. Just thought id share!

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