Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Selling support

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Carolyn Gillis, a Falmouth mother who attracted national notice in 2004 for founding — a Web site with a yard-sale motif, where families can sell off their junk and donate some of the profit to benefit the town’s public schools — is broadening her reach. Gillis, who has since set up a similar site for the Westbrook schools, has just expanded the model to, which channels money to charities in Maine and around the country.

The seller posts info about an item for sale, including a suggested price, and designates a charity from a list of about a dozen (ranging from the hyper-local Another Chance Animal Rescue in South Berwick to the globally minded, and chooses a percentage of the sale price that will be donated — from one percent to the full sale price.

Prospective buyers can search for specific items or by product category or, curiously, by the charity they wish to help. Based on the sample ads (all five of them, which are the only postings on the site as of now), a person who wanted to support would have to love the water, because the only items offered on that charity’s behalf are a $60,000 sailboat (with half the money to the group), or a $75 kayak (25 percent donated). An animal-rescue fan has a choice of buying a $3000 baby grand piano or, well, nothing. (Anyone can donate directly to the charities through links on the site, and Gillis doesn’t take any cut.)

Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody tried to sell a piece of toast branded with the image of the Virgin Mary, and (a Web-based casino, which apparently has a collection of such artifacts) shelled out $28,000 for the holy bread and sent a sizeable percentage to a nonprofit along the way? Seems to happen all the time on that other online auction site, whose name we just can’t remember right now.