About Heart for Ethiopia
Heart for Ethiopia is dedicated to development projects in rural Ethiopia. They support schools for children 5-12 years old who previously did not have access to education, as well as adult literacy classes, health education, sports activities for the youth, and micro-finance groups helping adults launch small businesses.
Lauralee Lindholm is the founder of Heart for Ethiopia. After spending 18 years in Africa as missionaries, Lauralee and her husband retired to DeSoto, Texas. A garage sale fan, she discovered eBay. This is when she realized that 100% of the proceeds of her sales could directly fund her favorite cause. In fact, says Lauralee, “the eBay platform inspired the charity!” She established a 501(c)(3) and today devotes her time to raising funds with the help of eight volunteers working out of the bookstore in her home.
Heart for Ethiopia supports the infrastructure for 11 kindergartens and 217 churches that offer access to their programs. As Lauralee explains, “They count on Heart for Ethiopia as their meat and potatoes. We financially support the capacity building to fund their auditing, transportation, and basic operating needs of the central office.” Without this overhead structure, they cannot operate the programs within these hard-to-reach, local rural communities.
Ethiopia is the size of Oklahoma and Texas combined and the roads are often dangerous and unreliable. It is important to provide training for teachers in rural areas and take them basic supplies for their kindergartens. A vehicle saves time and money over public transport and gets thesupplies where they are needed.
eBay for Charity Solution: Direct Selling
Lauralee has found that direct selling of specific items like used books, magazines, and old collectible maps sell well on eBay. Over time, she has found a niche audience that specifically comes to her eBay store looking for these one-of-a-kind items. She explains that “eBay has made it plain and simple to direct sell and donate!” At least 90% of the items she sells for Heart for Ethiopia are on the eBay marketplace.
Lauralee has established a strong network in her local Texas community that is aware of her fundraising efforts and regularly send in-kind donations that she can list on the eBay marketplace. “People give us stuff and feel good about giving; dentist offices and beauty parlors send us magazines. Everyone at church knows we need items to sell and the they help to collect them. We are part of a local estate sale network and we obtain items that way, too.”
The funds raised on the eBay platform are integral to the development and infrastructure costs associated with the day-to-day operations of Heart for Ethiopia’s rural programs. In the last 14 years they have raised $900K on eBay through direct selling of items mostly in the $1-3 range. These funds have paid for kindergarten teachers’ salaries, school supplies, playground equipment, food, vehicle provision and upkeep, central office utilities, supplies, and much more.
One of the major projects Heart for Ethiopia has been able to support is the construction of a six-story office building for the operation of church activities throughout Ethiopia. Completed in October 2019, the building not only provides much-needed space for the many projects the church sponsors, it helps generate income that enables the church to be self-supporting. Other non-profit groups—grateful to find modern office space available in the crowded capital city—rent office space in the building.
With most of the items donated and all the work of listing, packing, and shipping done by volunteers and Lauralee, 100% of the proceeds go to Heart for Ethiopia. There is no overhead cost because the store operates out of Lauralee’s home. During the past year they averaged over $1,000 per week after shipping costs.
Learnings & Benefits
In the words of Lauralee:
- eBay marketplace is a better option than a brick-and-mortar where you have to hire and pay workers and pay overhead cost.
- eBay has millions of buyers and shoppers looking for specialized items that we carry.
- eBay has made it plain and simple for people to sell and donate. I can list items in as few as three minutes using Turbo Lister.
- eBay provides flexibility. I don’t have to be tied to a 9 am – 5 pm job and I can work whenever I want.”
“It can be hard and a lot of work but it’s fun and I get to involve other people. We get great feedback—people feel good about buying from us—a lot of people who have adopted Ethiopian children write us and chose to buy from us because we are charity. When all things are equal they buy from us and are sometimes willing to pay more because of our cause.”