Friday, August 27, 2004

Goodwill’s got it going
once, twice, strong

Attention, online shoppers: The nation's first nonprofit Internet auction site is turning five. An authentic Civil War discharge paper, a gold, diamond and pearl ballerina brooch, and a 1954 Bing Crosby record collection are just a few of the prized items currently on the virtual auction block.

"The items on our site are as diverse as our 50 million donors," says George W. Kessinger, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International.

Since its launch in 1999, shopgoodwill.com has grown at an average annual rate of 154 percent, earning more than $15 million for Goodwill programs.

Goodwill Industries of Hawaii was the 100th branch to hop on the bandwagon in June and in just two months can boast of 300 items sold on the venue.

"We're pretty excited," said Laura Kay Rand, vice president of corporate services for Hawaii.

There are currently 40 Hawaii postings online, and "when people across the country purchase (from Hawaii postings), the monies go to Hawaii Goodwill," Rand said, "so a lot of people are getting a chance to support Hawaii Goodwill."

Buyers pay shipping for items unless an isle resident purchases from a Hawaii posting. "Then, for once, they don't have to pay for shipping," Rand said.

Items posted are selected based on extensive research of shopgoodwill.com, added Rand. "We discovered that more than 70 percent of items that have sold were collectibles such as porcelain figurines or brand-name items. A porcelain tea set with no markings sold for $200, and all of that money went to Hawaii Goodwill."

If the item doesn't sell, it is returned to the stores.

For people looking for tax deductions, Rand said the site is a good indicator of an item's value, "so that's another really great resource."

Some 6,000 items are for sale at any given time, culled from a billion pounds of donated goods the organization collects each year. Revenues from shopgoodwill.com and Goodwill's retail stores fund job training and career services for people with disabilities, welfare recipients, displaced workers and other job seekers. Goodwill channels 84 percent of its revenues into its career programs.

"With an average of 13,000 unique visitors per day, we've created an Internet auction site that successfully co-exists with the heavy-hitting online auctioneers," says Kessinger.

Shoppers initiate transactions online through a secure server connection. Features such as a watch list and personal shopper monitor available items for prospective bidders. And, most important, says Kessinger, "Buyers feel protected because all the items come from Goodwill Industries. It's like buying something from someone you know."

Shopgoodwill.com, the brainchild of Goodwill Industries of Orange County in Santa Ana, Calif., has more than 100,000 registered buyers and 105 local Goodwill agencies as sellers. The site is owned and operated by the Santa Ana Goodwill, which also owns an Internet service provider, Kruzin Internet Services. "Since Goodwill had the technology and the steady flow of goods to produce an online auction, it made sense for us to do it ourselves rather than pay a for-profit middleman for the auction service," says Kessinger.

Star-Bulletin writer Ruby Mata-Viti contributed to this report.

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