Company delivers cash for charities

Charitable donations declined last year, dropping by an inflation-adjusted 5.7 percent from 2007, according to a report by the Giving USA Foundation. This year isn't looking much better. So short of holding bake sales and car washes, how can nonprofits bridge the gap between donations and needs?

Many are turning to Affinity4, a Norfolk-based firm that sells various products and services to supporters of charities and nonprofits. Its offerings include Internet access, insurance, credit cards, and wireless and digital phone service. The company donates 10 percent of the proceeds of each sale or monthly fee to the customer's designated cause. Affinity4, a for-profit enterprise, pays its operating expenses out of the remaining 90 percent of revenues.

We allow people to use the money they're already spending on purchases, so they can give more to a charity without having to dig deeper in their pockets, says Stephen D. Halliday, the president and CEO of Affinity 4.

The company negotiates with popular providers like Verizon, DirecTV and Marsh Global Consumer. In most cases, we will save people money on the product or service, and then they are also making a donation to their favorite charity, Halliday says.

Affinity4's sales have increased 10 percent since last fall, and the company has attracted about 25 new charitable partners this year, including the UCLA Alumni Association.

Since its start in 1997, the company has given more than $75 million to hundreds of charities, churches, ministries, nonprofits and colleges and universities.

The Affinity4 model doesn't negate a charity's need to seek donations and engage in various fundraising efforts, but it does offer a substantial supplement for many partners, particularly smaller charities, Halliday says.Charities really like it because they know they have something coming in every month and if they continue to put the word out, then they have a building proposition going forward.