Hiding your commercial credentials under a bushel

Many in the sector have a sceptical eye, and it wasn’t long before Frank Buckley applied his to the new online shopping app Give As You Live.

He is the chief executive of Down Syndrome Education International, and he noticed that it wasn’t easy to find out how Everyclick, which runs the app, is making the money to finance it.

You find out very quickly from the Everyclick website and from all the publicity material about the Give As You Live launch that if an online shopper uses the scheme, participating retailers will give about 2.5 per cent of the value of the purchase to the shopper’s nominated charity. Fantastic, you think: brilliant.

But to find out how Everyclick brings in the money to finance the necessary IT systems, or even to establish that it is a for-profit company in the first place, you have to dig a lot deeper. It’s not in the FAQs about Give as You Live on the website. Only when you start ploughing through the small print under the ‘legal’ button do you discover, about half way down, that the retailer gives Everyclick a commission about the same size as the charitable donation.

Nothing too dastardly about that, most might think. It’s not as if prospective shoppers are being deceived, and once they knew they would probably shrug their shoulders: it would be nicer if the charity got the full five per cent, but the system’s got to be paid for somehow, the commission seems reasonable, and the 2.5 per cent charitable contribution is not at all bad.

So why isn’t Everyclick more upfront about the fact that it’s a for-profit company and is working on commission? One argument might be that it’s not necessary to burden everyone with this slightly technical background information that’s not of direct relevance to the ordinary consumer and the charitable scheme.

Another view might be that hiding the commercial details under a bushel is a calculated ploy to leave people with the impression that Everyclick is itself somehow charitable, and thus to keep onside those who might jib at the red-blooded commercial component of this scheme.

My view would be that Everyclick and various other commercial outfits that do great work for charity should be a bit clearer and more transparent about their commercial credentials. At the very least, it would save them from having sceptics like Frank snapping at their heels.