June 10, 2014, 6:00 AM

For nonprofit Good360, the web is good for building business

A new e-commerce strategy is helping nonprofit Good360 expand its business of helping charities with products donated from corporations—while also helping the donors realize more business benefits.

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Raising money for nonprofits took a tough turn after the financial crisis of 2008-2009 made many companies take a harder look at financial management. “After 2009, the nonprofit world turned into a tailspin,” says Shabab Gruberg, chief information officer of nonprofit Good360, which helps some 40,000 charities by processing donations of products from hundreds of companies.

But the e-commerce strategy Good360 has been honing since then is helping the nonprofit raise its profile in the business of processing excess products from companies like Hilton Worldwide and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gruberg says. Several years ago, he says, Good360 mostly relied on offline means like paper records and fax machines to process donations and match them with charities. But in 2010 it started on a web-only course “to innovate this space,” Gruberg says.

Now, on a Magento e-commerce site—Catalog.Good360.com—connected to back-end business management software from NetSuite Inc., Good360 provides a new range of services. For example:

● To help match products with the needs of particular charities—such as desktop computers for schools—charities can use the Magento technology to post wish lists on Good360’s site, or copy the wish list widget onto their own site, to raise funds to cover the administrative fees associated with receiving donations and engage in and correspondence from Good360’s list of donors; donors can also search the Good360 site for particular types of charities by their needs;

● Corporate donors can get positive exposure in social media and Internet search results, as recipients of their donations use a feature on Good360’s site to post stories about how the donor helped them. Later this year, Good360 plans to let charities post such stories through a new mobile app. “Each story has its own web page link, so it can show up in Google searches,” Gruberg says. He cites research, such as reports by research firm Cone LLC, that show as much as 86% of millennials (consumers born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s) will choose or recommend brands because of their reputation for good works.

Good360 deployed the Magento Enterprise e-commerce software platform two years ago, and integrated it last year with NetSuite’s enterprise resource planning suite of Internet-based business software, including modules for managing inventory records and the accounts of its client charities. Good360 worked with Itegration, a Magento-certified web design and development firm, to manage the Magento site and integrate it with NetSuite. Magento is a part of eBay Enterprise, the e-commerce technology unit of eBay Inc.

When Good360 receives donations and lists them on its web site, charities can click to request donated goods for an “administration fee” that covers shipping costs and Good360’s operating expenses, Gruberg says. In some cases, donors drop ship their donated goods directly; donors also have the option to ship their donations to Good360’s warehouse at its headquarters location in Alexandria, VA.

Administration fees can run $49.99 for a batch of health and beauty products that would normally retail for $285.92, for example. Each listing shows both the retail price and the administration fee, revealing the savings.

The overall technology set-up is positioning Good360 to build on its traditional offerings to donors and charities while also planning new services and online features, Gruberg says.

It’s updating a method for charities to pay far less in administration fees, for example. Under this program, a charity enters its ZIP code on Good360’s web site to find local companies or retail stores offering to donate particular types of products. An online map indicates the geographic location of each donating company.

By getting products from a local source, the charity saves on the shipping fees portion of administrative fees and pays mainly for Good360’s operating expenses. A charity that needs home furnishings, for example, could pay a few hundred dollars per year to receive all of the donated bedroom and bathroom products from a local store.

Good360 is also looking into new ways to use technology from Magento, NetSuite, Itegration and other companies to improve its online features, operations and finances. For now, it averages out overall shipping costs when setting administration fees. But it’s working with an Australian shipping aggregation software company, Temando Pty Ltd., to better figure the shipping costs for individual orders. Orders can include multiple shipping carriers like United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp, local messenger services, and even ocean-going freight for donations come from abroad.

In another project, Good360 is looking into how it can more quickly process bulk shipments of donated goods donors ship to its warehouse. In some cases, Gruberg says, donors don’t want to spend the time to provide detailed information on what they’re donating, and will deliver large truckloads of donated goods without providing a list of them. “It’s one of our frustrations,” Gruberg says. “We often don’t know what’s in the truck until it arrives and we open the door.”

That can result in extensive time by Good360’s staff to identify and enter information on each donated product into the NetSuite inventory management software, Gruberg says. So Good360 is looking into building application programming interfaces, or APIs, that would automatically send product details from a donor’s inventory management system into Good360’s inventory management system. APIs are sets of software instructions for exchanging data between software applications.

The overall goal for Good360, Gruberg says, is to use web-based technology to automate operations as much as possible, which it figures will enable it connect more donor companies and charities.

“With the new e-commerce technology, we just want to be the marketplace connecting corporations and nonprofit organizations, and let the platform do the work,” Gruberg says.

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