5 Ways to Give Back with Your Etsy Shop

Every year during the holiday season, I start thinking of ways to give back to those in need. And there’s no better community you can rally up than the Etsy community.

You see, each shop owner has added his or her individual paragraph that makes up the handmade-themed book that is Etsy. As a community of like-minded creators and makers, Etsyians support each other and encourage the pursuit of an artistic, individual life. Each sale brings Etsy shop owners closer to the reasons they started an Etsy shop in the first place. For some Etsyans, sales aren’t just good for the pocket book; they are good karma because it allows them to give back.

Giving back is a common theme for many Etsy shop owners. Browse the forums and you’ll find plentiful discussions on ways Etsyans can give back to charity and community. Because an artistic life and community giving seem to blend seamlessly, ideals about giving back seem to be a growing trend on Etsy in general.

How are Etsy shop owners giving back? One simple way is by spending money in other Etsy shops. When one shop owner purchases from another, she is helping support the other shop and the artist’s endeavors. Shop owner, Diane, from Petaluna, notices that when she makes purchases at other Etsy shops, her own business takes an uptick. “I guess it’s it like you get what you give,” Diane shared. “It’s wonderful!” Not only shopping within Etsy, but encouraging others to do the same pays it forward. Etsyians often refer friends, family and complete strangers to Etsy for unique shopping.

Beyond shopping “local” in the Etsy network, shop owners participate in a variety of charitable venues. If you’re thinking about giving to charity though your Etsy business, some of these ideas may work for you.

5 Ways to Give Back

If you’re thinking about using profits from your Etsy shop for charitable giving, you have many options to choose from. Most importantly, choose a charity, organization or cause that is near and dear to you. You don’t have to officially become part of an organization to donate; there are many ways you can give on your own accord.

Make it Personal

We all hear the stories around Christmas time: someone anonymously leaves cash in the mailbox of a single mom who can’t afford holiday gifts for her kids; an anonymous donor gifts forty frozen hams to the food bank. These stories touch us. Deeply. Well, personal giving can be a touching experience. It doesn’t have to be a random stranger doing these great things in your community. It could be you.

Perhaps you know someone who is struggling to pay bills, buy food for their family, struggling with medical expenses or other financial strain. It may be a friend, neighbor, co-worker or someone you’ve heard about from someone else. You may not actually know the person at all. However, if you choose to keep your donated funds local, giving back to someone you actually know is in need can be a great place to start. You can keep donations anonymous if you wish, or in-person; whichever feels right to you. You may be able to make a large donation for someone you know, anonymously, though the church they attend or bank they use.

Money isn’t the only charitable commodity you can provide someone you know. Perhaps clothing, gas cards or loaded gift cards to a shopping center or grocery store, holiday gifts and food may also be badly needed. If our friends or family are needy, it may show more around the holidays. But that doesn’t mean it is the only time you can give. Anytime you make the determination someone in your life needs a little boost, providing a charitable hand is good giving back, indeed.

Give Locally

Keeping donations in your own community is a wonderful way to support those around you. Your community is likely filled with outreach and charitable functions that you can become involved with. Local community centers, churches, schools and organizations like Kiwanis and VFW often host fundraisers and charity drives.

Working with local shelters and food banks is another local way to give. One Etsy shop owner who makes baby slings (and wishes to stay anonymous), donates one brand new sling each month to the woman’s shelter in her community, and often gives out more to new mothers who can’t afford one. “A sling can make a huge impact for a new mom with an infant. If I can provide that comfort, I’m going to do it.”

Giving locally also offers up the opportunity to participate in relief for community disasters, like house fires and illnesses, deaths or accidents that tragically affect individuals or families. You may choose to donate money, clothing, food or other items to fundraisers for people affected by local tragedy.

There’s another area of your community that benefits greatly from donations, and you benefit from them: your local emergency services and fire departments. Especially if you live in a rural or underserved area, your local ambulance service may be struggling to keep its budget afloat. Consider donating to the emergency organizations that mean so much for your community.

Giving back locally may not just mean donating dollars. Christen from bddesigns donates her time by participating in local charity fundraisers that benefit her community. Charitable functions often take a lot of brain power and man power to pull off; the time you give is likely to be very, very appreciated! Food and clothing banks also utilize volunteers to sort food, clothing and other donations, and also put on weekly or monthly meals for the needy. With a little searching, it won’t take long for you to find a local organization, or person, that could use your help!

Animal Rescue Organizations

Etsyians with a sweet spot for critters work with charities that benefit the rescue and care of abused, neglected or unwanted animals. Animal rescue organizations serve all types of animals, from domestic pets to farm animals, horses and even wild and exotic animals. You may have one or more animal rescue groups in your own area. Animal rescue groups are often privately owned and self-funded; outside donations are often welcome to cover veterinarian fees and animal housing and feeding costs.

The Partnership for Animal Welfare has a cohesive listing of many animal-help groups. Or check with your local humane society to find organizations in your area.

International Organizations

International charity organizations allow your donated dollars to reach needy people all over the world. Some may provide microloans to women in impoverished countries; others may help build schools and medical centers. Because there are literally thousands of charitable organizations working internationally, it’s a good idea to research your options.

Kiva.org is a reputable international charity familiar to some Etsyians, like Etsy team, Kiva16. Kiva16’s mission is simple – to give other artists and entrepreneurs around the world, the ability to make a living by selling their wares.

Other Charitable Organizations

You may be familiar with well-known charities, like the March of Dimes or UNICEF or the Salvation Army. Or, you might be looking to help a smaller charity grow. No matter whom you choose to support, consider peeking in on both small and large charities to learn more about them. Or, get help looking for a charity to work with. Charity Navigator is a helpful tool for sourcing new or unknown charities and seeing how well charities perform.

Ways to Finance your Donations

Once you’ve decided to start giving back, you might wonder the best way to go about it. The truth is you can do whatever best fits your budget and ability to donate charitably.

  • Take a percentage of overall sales, weekly or monthly

If you plan to donate monthly, consider taking a percentage or portion from your overall Etsy sales each month. Remember to subtract your expenses from your total monthly income before setting aside money for charity. Amythest from chromarium takes 10% of her final profit, after business fees, to donate to charity. You may choose to deduct charitable monies each week or each month, whenever it fits best into your accounting routine.

  • Set up specific listings to donate proceeds from

Some Etsy sellers list certain products for charity. For instance, a soap seller may list one type of soap specifically for the charity of her choice. When that type of soap sells, all proceeds from the sales go to the charity. Other shops have entire store sections listed for charity; some use their entire store and donate proceeds from every sale.

If you choose to set up specific listings just for charity, be sure to keep a spreadsheet handy so you can keep track of each time that product sells and the total profits from all the sales.

  • Join a charity group on Etsy

The Etsy community has banded together to support many different charities. You’ll find them in the Etsy community pages, under ‘teams’. Simply use the search function, using keywords like ‘charity group’ or ‘charity team’ to pull up a list of relevant teams.

Charity teams often post listings under a specific charity, with collaborative proceeds going to the charity of choice. If you’d like a team for a specific charity, or mode of giving back, but can’t find a related team, feel free to start one yourself!

  • Donate Product

You may want to donate to charity, but funds might be low. If donating sales from your Etsy shop to charity is out of the question, you may still be able to give back. Often, charity fundraisers will look for product donations to be used in silent auctions. Consider donating products, if possible. Make sure your products are tagged with your business name and Etsy shop link, or include business cards with the products. Some charity auctions, especially those hosted by large or well-known organizations, can draw in thousands of people. Ultimately, you may draw more exposure for your shop which can equate sales you can use for later charitable giving.

If you choose to donate products, be sure the charity or fundraiser is reputable and legitimate. In most cases, you’ll be provided a charitable donation receipt which can be used as a tax write-off, if you wish.

Talking Charity in Your Etsy Shop

Once you’ve decided to donate proceeds from your Etsy shop to charity, should you announce it in your shop? Opinions are mixed. While it is not uncommon for some shops to prominently display their chosen charity in the shop announcement or listings, not all buyers are keen on the idea.

Simply, with scams and mistruths surrounding charities running rampant on the internet, shoppers don’t always know who to trust. Wary shoppers may worry that shops don’t actually donate to charity, even though they say they do. Sharon, from Dollybirdblythe, who shops as well as sells on Etsy, sums up this fear, “I just feel that there are far too many people who use it (charity) as a marketing ploy and there is no way to prove that the money does indeed go the charity.”

Alternately, some sellers notice an increase in sales after mentioning their charity of choice in product listings, or it helps bring awareness; good things for helping finance the charity. Nadya from oceloteyes, who sells wildlife art, donates proceeds from specific animal art to related charities. “I would hope that if someone buys an image of a particular animal, they could also know part of their purchase went to help those real animals.” Nadya mentions charitable giving in her profile.

If you choose to talk about charitable giving in your Etsy shop, don’t go overboard. Mentioning the charity over and over, in multiple places, may scream spam more than charitable contribution. You want shoppers to feel comfortable purchasing from you, not like they are being pushed into supporting your charity. Instead, consider limiting the charity announcement in one spot that shoppers can refer to if they wish, like in your profile.

Still, others choose not to mention it at all. For some, charitable giving is between themselves and the charity. It’s a kind of silent, secretive, warm-fuzzy. However, if promoting your charity is near and dear to you, consider being as transparent as possible.

Set up a newsletter that shoppers can subscribe to. Then, send out quarterly newsletter with updates to your charitable giving.

Provide snapshots of how much your business has donated since your last newsletter. This shows that you’re serious about supporting a charity and not pilfering donation money.  Will buyers really sign up for this? Maybe not; it depends on how deeply they feel for the charity you support. Even if they don’t, and especially if they do, you’re prepared to show documentation supporting your donation history. Talk about credible!

Etsy’s Rules

Etsy allows each shop owner to decide individually to sell for charity or not. Because so many scams revolve around charities, Etsy has put some rules into place. First, is to be sure you’re following all state and local laws (if they apply to you) about engaging in charitable fundraising. Speak with your business accountant if you’re unclear how charitable donating may affect you, or ask for a referral to someone who may know more.

The Etsy Handbook outlines several rules for charitable listings:

  • Member must follow all fundraising laws
  • A seller, whose shop engages in charitable fundraising on behalf of a recognized, tax-deductable charity, must receive appropriate consent from the charitable organization. You’ll want to ask the charity you’re fundraising for, if it is OK to use their name and/or logo in any shop announcements or listings.
  • Seller must include clear information about the organization and details of donations in the product listing or shop profile.
  • Listings asking for donations, without selling a tangible product, are prohibited. You must offer something for sale to raise charitable funds; you can’t use listings to ask for donations only.
  • Members need to comply with all policies, including Etsy’s community and conversation policies. You may not spam other members with unsolicited donation requests!
  • A charitable shop that involved multiple people must comply with all membership rules.

If Etsy thinks your charitable listing is in violation of any of their policies, your listings may be taken down.

Alternately, following Etsy’s rules aren’t the only ones you should be concerned about. Making charitable donations may have tax implications for your business. Be sure you’ve meet with your accountant, as noted above, to discuss how to best handle donations under your business name. You’ll also need a way to easily track donations and any product that you may have donated for fundraising.

Keep receipts for all donations, and be sure the value of all donations is clearly stated. You may be able to write off the cost of your donations from your taxes at the end of the year. No matter how you look at it, being an active participant in giving back can have so much more reward than a simple tax write-off. It’s making a huge deposit in your connections to others and paying it forward!

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