Vancouver Covenant House has found a good new friend, and maybe hundreds more, in EthicallyHip.com. The daily deals website, which launched in September, is giving all its net proceeds to Covenant House Vancouver for the month of October, and will do so for another month in the coming year. The site will bring new donors to the agency, too, people who might not have heard about the shelter before.
The site works like Groupon.com or LivingSocial.com, offering discounts to local restaurants and services, to everyone who subscribes to emailed notices of the deals. Merchants working with Ethically Hip get 70 percent of what subscribers pay for the deal (a higher percentage than Groupon typically offers) and the charities get almost all of the remaining 30 percent. In last week’s deal, subscribers could pay $90 for $185 worth of Eco-Friendly Carpet Cleaning, and $27 (nearly 30 percent) went to Covenant House from each deal. Ethically Hip's costs are small, just enough to keep the servers running—no one there takes a salary yet.
The site is the brainchild of Robin Abrey, 47, and his wife, Wendy Oloman, 43. Mr. Abrey sold his pickup truck last week to keep the venture going. He was inspired to devote his life to something big after a midlife crisis several years ago, when he quit his software job, got divorced, sold or gave away his possessions, and went off the grid while sailing around in South America. He saw poverty there that broke his heart, and saw more when he returned to Vancouver and drove through Downtown East Side, known as Canada’s poorest postal code.
He really believes that people want to help disadvantaged people, but they’re so busy they don’t get around to writing checks to charities as much as they would like.
“This is a great opportunity to try to get people to support good causes by doing something they’re going to do anyway – shop!” he said.
But Ethically Hip goes far beyond charitable deals sites like DealsForDeeds.com, which gives a minimum of five percent of every purchase to worthy causes. At Ethically Hip, it all goes to the good guys. And it wasn’t hard for Mr. Abrey to choose Covenant House as one of the site’s first beneficiaries.
“I believe that food is (or at least should be) a basic human right,” he said. “I feel the same way about kids having a safe place to live, free of fear or abuse. Our mission is ‘Feed a child. Save a life. Save the planet,’ and I think Covenant House really fits with what we are all about.”
The site has 2,000 subscribers, growing at about 10 percent a month. There are plans for charity auctions, including an end-of-the-month package of Canucks tickets, donated by a local printer, some signed jerseys and a night at a hotel, all to benefit Covenant House. Eventually, Mr. Abrey has plans to let subscribers pick a charity to receive the donations generated from their shopping, and hopes to get private funding to cover salaries and the maintenance of the site.
“The goal in Vancouver is, if we could capture ten percent of the daily deal market, we would be giving over a million dollars to charity,” he said. (All values are in Canadian dollars.) “This is new money, which never would have found its way to the charity pie.”
Thanks, Ethically Hip, for helping Covenant House kids. Now let’s go shopping, spread the word, and try to score some Canucks tickets!