Australians are a generous bunch. Judging by the amount we increasingly donate to charities each year, we have a growing appreciation that there are underprivileged people or helpless animals needing need our financial support.
Buying Fairtrade or ethically-sourced gifts helps us spread the love but a Queensland entrepreneur has found a way to donate to charities through buying average, everyday products like beer and a season pass for Game of Thrones -- and the best part is it doesn't cost you a cent.
When shopping on Gifts4Good, you can buy products from more than 500 retailers -- including giants Big W, amazon.com, Dan Murphy's and iTunes -- and a percentage of the sale is given to charity.
Australians spent a staggering $19.6 billion online in the past 12 months, and Gifts4Good founder Alison Gray said she just wanted a share to go to worthy causes.
"It's a massive amount of money spent online so if we can tap into a fraction of that for social purpose that's great," she told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Gifts4Good has a broad overall mission of 'how can we make it easier for people to make a difference when they shop?'."
Gray was inspired after seeing overseas sites such as www.easyfundraising.org.uk which had so far donated $27.4 million.
Here's how it works. A shopper visits the site and signs up. They choose their preferred charities from a list of about 30 -- growing each week with applications welcome -- ranging from the Cancer Council to local pet rescue charities and even a Scouts group. Shoppers then choose one of the 500 retailers they wish to shop at, click through to their site and fire away.
The retailer then donates an agreed fee -- between three and five percent and published on the website for transparency -- to Gifts4Good. As a social enterprise, Gray's business donates 50 percent of that to the shopper's charity of choice.
If shoppers don't want to sign up to Gifts4Good but still want to use the site, the money earned from their sales will go to Gray's foundation charity partner Give It which supports more than 1000 charities across Australia.
The retailer knows you have come from Gifts4Good via a web tracker system used by other referral sites. Gray said this was a common marketing model which she had simply taken advantage of.
"A lot of online shoppers don't realise that a lot of online retailers pay referral fees to websites -- it's an existing marketing strategy and what I'm doing is tapping into that for a social purpose," she said.
Gray also introduced a Google Chrome extension which will recognise if you visit any participating retailer independently and ask if you would like to donate through your purchase via a pop-up.
Bigger brands were happy to sign on with Gifts4Good and Gray said this was partly because they were increasingly aware that shoppers had a social conscience. Research in the US found consumers were 90 percent more likely to switch brands to one associated with a cause if it was the same price and quality.
"I think the trend is growing and people are becoming more aware of it," she said. "Because of this, brands are quite conscious of associating themselves."
So far Gray has donated thousands to charity but is embarking on a new business line to expand her offerings.
Experiences for Good offers cooking classes with FareShare, training days with refugee groups and a Maori stories walking tour, among others.
Gray is developing the concept as part of the Brisbane component of the Two Feet program for social enterprises run by Melbourne-based The Difference Incubator, and says she's learning more about her customers as well as her charity groups.