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Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace is blending eCommerce and philanthropy

Alibaba Group has transformed its Taobao marketplace into a charity platform with four philanthropy programs, allowing donors to purchase charity items. Last year, Taobao marketplace raised RMB440 million from two million merchants and 427 million shoppers, helping an estimated 8.7 million people.

The four Taobao’s initiatives, namely “Goods for Good”, “Online Charity Stores”, “Threehour Voluntary Service Platform” and “Steps for Charity”, attracted participation from over 427 million users, who performed 7.9 billion charitable actions in 2018, including donations of time and money.

In 2018, over two million Taobao merchants took part in the “Goods for Good” program. Participating merchants pledged a percentage of the price of their merchandise as a donation to their designated charitable organization or good cause. When customers purchase these products on Taobao, the system directly transfers the amount to the chosen organization.

The program generated RMB364 million in donations on an average of 20 million transactions per day. During Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in 2018, 300 million charitable transactions were executed in 24 hours by 100 million consumers.

In addition, consumers can also purchase items from online charity stores on Taobao. Money from transactions was donated directly to support a wide range of charitable causes. Funded by purchases from these online stores, the “Free Lunch” project was able to provide more than 56.5 million free meals to rural school students in 2018. Last year, the “Online Charity Stores” program raised RMB75.43 million from 2.73 million customers. More than half of the donors were people born in the 1990s.

The “Three-hour Voluntary Service Platform” program originates from a program for Alibaba employees to participate in three hours of voluntary charity service every year. In 2017, Taobao extended the program on its platform by encouraging its users to commit their service to designated charity organizations. Over 1,100 charity organizations have offered more than two million voluntary service opportunities through the program. By December 2018, a cumulative 17 million users had engaged in the “Three-hour Voluntary Service Platform”.

For the “Steps for Charity” initiative, users can pledge to donate the number of steps they’ve walked every day to charity through the Taobao app, with Taobao merchants or other corporates matching these steps with monetary donations to charity projects, such as building jogging paths for schools in poverty-stricken areas in China. In the six month period since “Steps for Charity” was launched in 2018, users have donated more than 90 billion steps to the initiative.

Money and other resources raised via Taobao benefit not only the poor and unfortunate in China, but also people and programs in Ethiopia and Myanmar. The platform supports causes ranging from poverty alleviation, education, environmental protection, child care and animal protection, as well as illness and disaster relief.

Jiang Fan, president of Taobao, said, “ We are thinking of different ways to utilize the influence of our marketplace. Turning to philanthropy is a good example of how Taobao can provide a viable channel to conduct charity initiatives creatively and effectively with just one click. The accumulation of small, thoughtful and compassionate acts from individuals each day can make a big difference at the end.”

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