Christena Reinhard was working in fundraising at San Francisco’s chapter of Year Up — a national nonprofit that supports disadvantaged young adults seeking professional development — when a donor approached her with a particularly unique ask.
The woman was passionate about Year Up and also had a closet full of designer clothing that she no longer needed. She wanted to do something that transcended simply donating or consigning. Together, Reinhard and the woman worked to sell the items, raising a total of $43,000. They later used it to fund a computer lab set up to teach technical skills in a critical need region of the Bay Area.
Inspired by the interaction, Reinhard went on to found Union & Fifth in 2014, an e-commerce consignment platform. Users donate clothing and select a charity to receive 75 percent of the profits when a sale is made. Union & Fifth has also attracted brands — including Eileen Fisher, Chanel and Theory — which donate overstock items to the site. Nicole Miller recently provided more than 100 items to the platform. Last quarter, the site cut checks to a total of 222 charities, Reinhard said.
More than ever, luxury brands are using e-commerce as a means of supporting philanthropic efforts, in addition to making a profit. This is ultimately vital to their bottom line, Reinhard said, as consumers are increasingly compelled to purchase from charitable companies. According to cause marketing agency Cone Communications’ annual consumer social responsibility survey, 87 percent of Americans will purchase products because a company advocated for an issue they are passionate about.
“Brands are becoming aware that it’s really important to have a visible give-back component,” Reinhard said. “It’s important to sell more than just a product.”
Brands including Warby Parker and Tom’s have long matched donations — of glasses or shoes, respectively — to purchases made. A more recent trend is websites that curate luxury brands and donate part of their proceeds to charity. Case in point: Stacey Boyd, the founder of several philanthropic ventures focused on education and childhood development, is now taking her talents to the luxury market, with Olivela.
Olivela, which officially launched this week, sells new luxury products and donates a portion of proceeds to families in need. It works in conjunction with the Good+ Foundation, an organization founded by Jessica Seinfeld that helps fight poverty. Unlike similar sites that specify how much of a sale is going to a charity, Olivela lays out the specific ways the funding will be used. For example, while browsing the site, consumers will see that proceeds from a Salvatore Ferragamo bag will provide 26 days of children’s essentials for families in the U.S. Or they’ll find that buying a Valentino bag will contribute to more than 2,000 days worth of diapers.
Olivela currently features products from ten brands that Boyd personally enlisted to join the effort. In addition to Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino, the list includes Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabanna and Jimmy Choo.
“I personally met with a handful of the world’s leading luxury designers and brands to present the concept and determine how we could work together,” she said. “It was certainly a collaborative process, and we are extremely lucky to have their support. My hope is that we create a movement — that brands and retailers will place more emphasis into social good and giving back.”
Image courtesy of Olivela