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Online malls fulfill shoppers’ wishes and raise cash for nonprofits

Nonprofit groups have a new way to raise money. Supporters who shop in an organization’s virtual shopping mall can lead to donations of up to 25 percent of the purchase price.

It’s a win-win proposition.

Faced with ever-rising costs of keeping their son involved in hockey and lacrosse teams, Joe and Tara Raats of Las Vegas decided to find a new way to raise money. They founded shoptofundraise.org last October and have nearly 50 organizations on the way to setting up custom online malls that directly benefit the nonprofits.

Organizations pay $349 to set up the mall and cover the initial year of service. An annual fee of $69 keeps the mall active. Members starting at their organization’s home page will find more than 830 online merchants, selling everything from toothpaste to travel. Each offers a varying percentage of rebate to the nonprofit group.

The Raats’ are affiliated with shoptoearn.net and shoptoearth.net for the backbone of their operation. These companies work with merchants to secure affiliate relationships to populate the mall.

Joe Raats said organizations currently get the greatest benefit when members buy organic products through the shoptoearth portion of the virtual mall.

“So many people think because products are organic, they are higher priced. That’s just not true,” Joe Raats said. “We send out a weekly e-mail showing organic alternatives. They’re better for people, better for the planet and organizations get instant credit to their account.”

Plus, the organic products rebate is between 15 percent and 25 percent, giving nonprofits the greatest opportunity to raise funds. Raats said they use an example of one of their groups that made more than $400 in rebates from 19 purchases.

“The money that’s going to be made depends on people shopping,” Tara Raats said. “Once you start doing that (shopping online), you change your habits.

“We’d like to send out e-mails to members to remind them to shop through the mall and give them promotional offers with links that bring the shopper right to the mall.”

She said it’s up to the nonprofit groups to collect member e-mail addresses as the virtual mall lets people shop without registering. They simply shop as they normally would, with the only difference being the starting point.

For example, Christ The King Catholic Community has a virtual mall that is linked from their home page at www.ctklv.org, or reached directly at www.christtheking mall.org. The organization logo appears in the lower, left corner of the virtual mall home page.

Shoppers starting there will have a percentage of every purchase returned to the church.

For more information, e-mail tararaats@gmail.com or call 702-465-0653.

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