Cathie Anderson: Davis-based easycause.com makes helping nonprofits easy on Web

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 - 10:32 am

A couple of years ago, Tom Sykes stumbled into an emerging industry that helps online shoppers score donations for their favorite charities.

Sykes, a self-described serial entrepreneur, explained that thousands of online retailers rely upon other businesses to link to their sites and encourage sales. If a purchase is made, the business that steered over the buyer receives a commission.

It's called affiliate marketing, Sykes said, and it currently generates $3.5 billion a year in payments. When nonprofits help make these sales connections, the commission comes in the form of a donation.

Sykes decided to launch the Davis-based easycause.com 11 months ago to help nonprofits create "shopping malls" on their websites. If donors click through from there and make a purchase, the nonprofit gets a donation.

But Sykes and his 18-person staff didn't stop there. They created an ingenious little browser button that, when downloaded, points out retailers that will donate to the cause of the shopper's choice. Shoppers see the button whenever they browse the Web. There's no need to link from the nonprofit's site.

Once the technology is set up, easycause becomes a marketer, sending out emails to patrons on behalf of nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society, the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and Capital Public Radio.

Half of each donation the nonprofit earns goes to pay easycause. The company stands out in its niche because it allows nonprofits to use their own brand.

"We just signed CapRadio," Sykes said. " ... They have 7,000 to 10,000 unique visitors to their website every day. They reach a half-million listeners every week, and starting next week, CapRadio Shops will be promoted on all their on-air promotions."

Migrating with donors

As director of development at Capital Public Radio, Arla Gibson must keep up with donors as they embrace new forms of online and mobile giving.

"We really want to meet people where they are," she said, "and many of our donors and our listeners are on the Web or use Web technology for a variety of opportunities. … Currently, when we're fundraising on-air, more than 50 percent of funding comes via the Web."

When Sykes and his team at easycause.com approached Gibson, she embraced the idea because it offered a new revenue stream that doesn't require an upfront investment.

"We tried our own shopping network a few years ago, and … maintaining those affiliate relationships with the retail establishment is almost a full-time job," Gibson said. Besides, she said, one person couldn't possibly reach the 3,000-plus retailers that easycause offers.

Roughly half of CapRadio's $8 million budget comes from individuals, said Gibson. She also will launch a new mobile phone strategy with guidebycell.com before Christmas.

The art of Shirley Dubnick

The former Solomon Dubnick Gallery at 1017 25th St. in Sacramento will once again become a gallery today as about 100 pieces of art from Shirley Solomon Dubnick's estate go on sale.

"We're storing it. We're insuring it, and no one's getting to appreciate it, and that's what art's all about," said Dubnick's nephew, Michael Solomon.

Dubnick's heir, her son David Dubnick, lives in Omaha and doesn't have space for the pieces, Solomon said. Prices on the art will range from $50 to $8,000, he said. Preview the pieces from noon to 5 p.m., then bid from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Peacocks populate a large, whimsical work by Maija Peeples that once hung in Solomon Dubnick's living room. The silent auction also will include works by Jeff Myers, Gary Pruner and Jian Wang. There's also a portrait of Solomon Dubnick's parents, Clayton and Annette Solomon.

"Well, my grandfather's in it, but he's sort of painted as a portrait hanging on the wall behind Annette," Solomon said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson





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