Good Magazine & “Steal This Idea”

[Originally posted on November 13, 2007]
First off, I want to make a plug for Good Magazine. Great content, wonderful community, and the best part is that when you subscribe 100% of your money goes to one of 12 non-profits (Kiva just recently became an option!). Plus, you’ve gotta love their tag-line: A magazine for people that give a damn.
The reason for this post is to highlight a section they have called “Steal This Idea”, which I love. Folks with ideas for something / anything that’ll somehow make the world a better place can write in with those ideas, and then the editors pick the ones they like and profile one per issue. What I wish they’d do different is make it more of a democratic process and allow readers to vote on the ideas. An open flow of innovation between Good Magazine’s self-selected readership could spark some really big things, and help GOOD ideas become GREAT ideas. Yeah? You with me?
Oh fine…I’ll be honest. I submitted an idea and it didn’t make the cut : (
Luckily I have a blog and can self-publish! : ) Ready? Here it is:
Everyone has stuff lying around they want to sell but don’t have time to, right? So this is what I propose: A win-win-win for (1) people with stuff they want to get rid of, (2) the Salvation Army, and (3) local non-profits.
Step 1: Someone with stuff he/she wants to get rid of takes 5 minutes to list what he/she has and the condition that it’s all in on a simple website, and indicate which of the participating local non-profits he/she wants to benefit (minimum $100 value per item).
Step 2: The Salvation Army comes by and picks up the stuff.
Step 3: While the stuff is in the Salvation Army warehouse, the non-profit specified lists the items on eBay and tries to sell it.
If the stuff sells, the Salvation Army sends the goods out, the non-profit gets the proceeds of the sale, and the person gets a tax write-off for the selling price of the goods. If the stuff doesn’t sell, the Salvation Army gets the stuff and the person gets a much smaller, but still better than zero, tax write off. Yes, I know the Salvation Army has some very particular beliefs which I don’t necessarily agree with, but my understanding is they do a good job of taking donated items and giving them to those in need, and I’ll bet a lot of people hold on to higher-value stuff — and this might incentivize them to move those items as well. Ideally the stuff sells and local non-profits have a new, high-value revenue stream : )
I (sorta) tried to start this back in 2003, but (very) quickly realized it was more work that I was willing to do. Sad, I know. Have an idea you’re not going to make happen, and don’t have a blog to publish it so you can show off how clever you (think you) are? Send ’em into Good: stealthisidea[at]
[One comment from Seema: "Great idea, sundeep! Piggybacking on the idea, here’s another approach (which is probably already in use)…
Non-profits are generally short-staffed and may not be able to absorb the added overhead of listing for charity (although they can definitely do this through eBay’s Giving Works program which waives all fees if you’re 501c3). Similarly, the Salvation Army may require new processes and infrastructure to shelve off individual items for charitable sale. And then they have to handle the logistics of packaging and shipping to individuals.
Why not extend the idea of trading assistants into the non profit sector? These guys are already in the business of selling inventory (on eBay and elsewhere) for individuals who don’t want to deal with the hassle. They tend to drive higher sales b/c they’re specialized in this, and they take some cut. You could extend an existing TA or start a new one focused on non profit that takes a smaller cut of the sale and donates the rest to a non profit of the original owner’s choice through eBay Giving Works.
BTW – love the blog. Much more relevant for me than the act in LA thing. :)"


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