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Buy Once Give Twice is a charity auction site which sells items that have been left uncollected from charity balls and other functions.

After noticing that many items from charity auctions went unredeemed, Mia Woodford and Emma Leschallas launched Buy Once Give Twice in April this year.

We talked to co-founder Mia Woodford about the website...

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Where did the idea come from?

Emma did a charity ball back in 2006, and the auction raised £300,000. We had organised for people to bid online before the ball so that the lots already had some bids when the auction started.

We also noticed that lots worth £140,000 from the auction were never used by the people who had bought them. This included items like a £20,000 skiing holiday and a weekend in Cornwall.

Sometimes people buy these lots but are unable to make the dates, so it seemed to us like a huge waste of resources.

We then teamed up with a number of charities to see if they would put these items on the site.

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How does the auction process work?

It works in a similar way to other auction sites: after registering first, visitors can choose the item they want to bid for. People can chose to enter a maximum amount, so their bids will increase in increments, as with eBay. We also plan to introduce a 'buy it now' option for some auctions.

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Did you or Emma come from a web background?

No, neither of us did. My background is in marketing. I used to work for Saatchi and Saatchi before setting up my own agency. Emma’s background is in fine arts and antiques, so she has a lot of experience with auctions.

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Do you make more with online auctions compared to charity events?

This depends on the items on offer. With charity balls, there are some items which we can’t find much interest for, whereas online we can reach a larger audience and find a buyer for most items.

On the other hand, online buyers are often more interested in finding a bargain on items like flights and holidays.

We still find though, that many people are prepared to pay good prices online, because it is for charity.

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What kinds of items have you sold?

We sold the big red chair from Big Brother for £6,600, while last week we sold a pair of tickets to the Champions League final in Moscow for £4,750.

We have other items coming up in the summer, such as a Fender Stratocaster signed by the members of Pink Floyd, and decorated by Gerald Scarfe.

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How are you marketing the site?

We have a lot of support from charities, and have gained a lot of reciprocal links from these sites, as well as philanthropic organisations like the Big Give.

We also intend to spend money on AdWords to promote some of our items, and are also in the process of hiring an SEO agency.

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What kind of traffic are you getting? Where from?

We launched in April, and traffic has been increasing. We have had 7000 unique visitors over the last three weeks.

About 30% of our traffic comes via referrals from other sites, about 20% from search engines, and 50% direct. The proportion of traffic from search and referrals has been increasing.

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How much have you raised so far?

Since launching on 17th April, we have raised a total of £35,000, but we hope to reach a total of £2m by the end of the year.

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Related research:
2007 Charity Website Benchmarks Report

Related stories:
Charities failing to make the most of the web

Graham Charlton

Published 2 June, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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