Kijiji-like charity platform GiveShop ‘social capitalism’ at its best, Ottawa co-founder says


When Ottawa lawyer John Farah tried to donate some family heirlooms to charity a few years ago and couldn’t find any takers, he decided there had to be a better way of converting items he no longer needed into cash for a good cause.

The result is a new platform called GiveShop, a free app which debuted on Monday. The online peer-to-peer marketplace works similar to Kijiji but with a twist ​– instead of going to the seller, all the net proceeds from transactions are donated to charity.

When sellers post an item on the platform, they are required to choose a charity from a list of 17 participating Ottawa organizations, including the CHEO Foundation, Meals on Wheels and the Ottawa Hospital. 

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GiveShop takes a processing fee off the top, and the rest of the money from the sale is deposited directly into the designated charity’s bank account. Vendors receive a charitable tax receipt via email or regular post.

GiveShop president and co-founder Mark Farrell says charities love the app because it’s a way for them to raise funds without spending money on mail-out campaigns or organizing costly and time-consuming events such as golf tournaments and fundraisers.

While he notes that previous studies suggest it costs Canadian charities an average of 26 cents to raise one dollar’s worth of funds, GiveShop’s typical commission fee is about 16.5 per cent.

“If an item sells, it sells, and they get their money and we get paid,” Farrell explains. “If it doesn’t sell, there’s no cost for them to be part of the marketplace.”

The self-financed company, which has a full-time staff of four and employs another five people part-time, is also targeting corporate donors through its “virtual garage sale” program. Employees of companies that join the program can donate items to the platform in their employers’ name and receive personal tax receipts. Farrell says several local firms have already signed on, and he’s getting new inquiries every day.

“We see it as a win-win-win,” he says. “The company looks great and it’s not costing anybody (any money).”

Since the app went live on Monday, about $11,000 worth of merchandise has been posted on the platform, he says. The total sale proceeds as of Thursday afternoon were about $1,500, but Farrell says he’s confident the app will quickly gain traction once more people know about it.

“Obviously, it’s early days,” he says. “The majority of the charities haven’t really kicked in their marketing campaigns. That’s starting to happen as we speak.”

Farrell, who is also a partner in a local property development firm Inspire Developments, says GiveShop expects to expand into the Toronto market before the end of the year and hopes to have items from across the country on the platform by 2021.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life, and what appealed to me was the idea of doing well by doing good,” he says. “To me, this is the poster child of social capitalism.”

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