July 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Web brother, can you spare a dime?

A new e-commerce technology vendor is offering e-retailers a free system that enables customers to donate their “change” from an online purchase to charity. Launched last month, Change Round-Up provides interested e-retailers free software and transaction services that can be integrated into merchants’ checkout processes.

Internet Retailer

A new e-commerce ­technology vendor is offering e-retailers a free system that enables customers to donate their “change” from an online purchase to ­charity. Launched last month, Change Round-Up provides interested e-retailers free software and ­transaction services that can be integrated into merchants’ checkout processes. The system was inspired by the fund-raising change jars found near the cash registers of many bricks-and-mortar stores.

“There are many ways to donate to charities, but most of them require the donor to do some work-write and mail a check, go to a web site and enter credit card information, attend fundraisers, and so on,” says Daniel H. Quigley, president of Change Round-Up. “We wanted to make it easier to donate. Now online customers can donate spare change, or more, at a time that is most convenient for them.”

In addition to making it easier for individuals who wish to donate, the system helps reduce the high costs charities face with other types of fundraising efforts, such as throwing gala dinners or ­printing and mailing massive letter ­campaigns, he adds.

Once integrated, the ­system asks customers ­during an e-retailer’s checkout ­process if they would like to round up their purchase price to the ­nearest dollar and donate that amount to a ­charity. They then choose a charity-one or more selected by the e-retailer-from a dropdown list and the rounded-up amount automatically is ­calculated. At that point, customers are able to enter a larger donation if they choose. The transaction is ­completed as usual with the retailer collecting the full payment. Because the merchant collects the larger amount as part of the sale, the ­merchant pays the credit card discount rate on the entire amount of the transaction. Change Round-Up reimburses the ­merchants for the discount that they pay on the ­contributed portion.

“The system is easy to implement. We work with either the retailer’s internal development team or their e-commerce vendors to integrate the add-on ­technology,” Quigley says. “Currently we’re ­working with I.T. professionals from a few e-commerce vendors in preparation to launch the system on the sites of our first e-retailer customers.”

The technological add-on to the online checkout process is a secure application program interface that takes the donated amount from the retailer’s finalized transaction and sends it to a secure, centralized database at Change Round-Up, which then sends funds to the selected charities. Change Round-Up does not charge credit cards or send bills to consumers.

The system is provided free to e-retailers, who typically would not profit from the transaction. Change Round-Up receives 10% of all donations for its operations. For companies uncertain of the benefits Change Round-Up says its system will produce, Change Round-Up will pay retailers to participate by giving 4% of total donations to the company and taking only 6%, as opposed to the full 10%, for itself.

Surfing for dollars

Four e-retailers are preparing to launch Change Round-Up on their sites in the weeks ahead, the company says, and more are in the pipeline. The company declines to name the e-retailers and their ­chosen charities until the retailers debut the charity system later this month. As an example, though, it says one beach-­oriented e-retailer has selected an environmental ­charity for its customers’ consideration.

This system is designed to ­benefit retailers at every turn, Quigley contends. “Benefits include: ­fostering customer loyalty because they see the e-retailer as ‘a good company’; generating positive ­publicity through PR campaigns and other means; and gaining greater insight into ­customers through Change Round-Up analytics functionality.”

Many retailers support ­charities because they care about their communities and want to be seen as good corporate citizens in the eyes of their customers, employees, vendors and investors, Quigley says. “We’re offering an easier and less expensive way for these companies to support and affiliate themselves with charities.”

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