If you are browsing REI’s website, looking at a $185 pair of Vasque hiking boots, odds are you aren’t at the same time thinking about making a donation to the Treasure Valley YMCA or Ballet Idaho.
Boiseans Russ Stoddard and Antonia Chappell think that’s a missed opportunity, both for you and the nonprofits.
So Stoddard and Chappell, who met two years ago, teamed up to form a company they named Social Good Network. If you shop at any of hundreds of companies online, you can go through the Social Good Network website, and the retailer will return a percentage of your sale to the network. Social Good Network will keep about half the amount returned and put the rest into an account in your name. From there, you can direct contributions to any of 1.6 million nonprofit groups listed in an Internal Revenue Service database. There is no extra cost to you.
The money the retailer sends to Social Good Network is a standard marketing fee. Online retailers pay these fees to approved websites that drive traffic toward the retailers. The fees are set by the retailer and can range from 1 percent to 12 percent of the sale, Stoddard said. Five percent is average. That means 2.5 percent of your purchase price would go into your charitable account.
Social Good Network seeks to tap a rapidly growing online consumer market that is reaching $300 billion a year.
“People come (to the website) with the intent to both serve their self-interest and do some good, and that is a powerful combination,” Chappell said.
“It doesn’t require you to dip into your back pocket,” Stoddard said. “It doesn’t require you to go to a store you don’t necessarily want to.”
Stoddard is president of Oliver Russell, a Boise marketing and public-relations firm at 217 S. 11th St. that bears his first and middle names. He’s lived in Boise since 1984 and co-founded a number of businesses. One was High Country Sports, a high-end outdoor clothing store at Fifth and Idaho Streets. It closed in the early 1990s. The Flying M coffee shop is there now.
He’s also a serial nonprofit volunteer. He helped found the City Club of Boise, which promotes civilized discussions of issues, and the Sawtooth Society, dedicated to preserving the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
“I get thrills from helping people,” said Stoddard, who calls himself CEO and chief do-gooder for the new company. “What a great group of people you get to work with. You get to deal with smart people. You get to deal with people with big hearts. That’s the posse I like to hang with.”
Chappell moved to Boise from Los Angeles seven years ago because she and her husband thought it would be a good place to raise their son, who is now 11.
Chappell had dabbled in online giving eight years ago — she even registered the web domain for socialgoodnetwork.com But the online market was young and not ready for the idea, she said.
Social Good Network launched just over a year ago. At first, Stoddard and Chappell wanted to test their concept, to see whether shoppers would come to the website and if they would spend money. Now the company is about to go through its first big Christmas shopping season, when $96 billion in goods is expected to be purchased online, Chappell said.
The pair declined to say how many buyers are signed up on their website so far.
They aren’t disclosing revenues, either, though they say revenues are not yet sufficient to cover their staff of six. “The money we’ve made is fairly nominal,” Stoddard said. Their main concern now is proving that the company’s business model can work and that the company can handle more business as it expands.
Social Good has received almost $300,000 in investments from the Boise Angel Fund, the new Treasure Valley Angel Fund, the Frontier Angel Fund of Kalispell, Mont., and other investors.
The money will be used to find more shoppers and to forge tighter relationships with retailers in what Stoddards calls “cause marketing” to bring in more nonprofits that can highlight their stories on Social Good Network’s website.
The approach is creative, said Kevin Learned, a Boise software entrepreneur and former College of Idaho president who has invested in the company through the Boise Angel Fund. “The big issue is how are they going to sell their product,” he said. “You could see how this could go big in a hurry.”
The Treasure Valley YMCA signed up with Social Good Network last summer and has collected $518 through purchases and $9,000 in direct donations through the company’s website.
As a customer and donor, “I can purchase what I want,” Everett said. “I don’t have to write two checks.”
The YMCA has 57,000 members. The Y will benefit if they get into the habit of giving in connection with purchases, he said.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts