The National Association of Minorities in Communications Foundation is asking cable networks to donate goods for an online auction, the proceeds from which would fund efforts to put computer technology into the hands of lower-income people.
Online trading giant eBay Inc. and the NAMIC Foundation have launched a charity auction channel at www.ebay.com/charity. The site sells cable-network premium items-which range from posters to guest appearances on TV shows-to benefit the foundation's Digital Bridge Alliance.
Nancy Hom, founder of multicultural Web portal Ahaplanet.com and co-chair of the Digital Bridge Alliance, called the auction site a method of sustainable fundraising.
"I thought, 'Why don't we use the medium itself to help us?'" Hom said.
An agreement was reached with eBay to sponsor the channel on its charity site, which also features such charities as Rosie O'Donnell's "For All Kids."
Hom hopes the Digital Bridge Alliance can raise $1 million in its first year.
She said cable networks have access to premiums that hold appeal to online bidders-even small-ticket items like posters.
"Someone's discarded stuff is someone else's treasure," she said.
The auction site must maintain an ongoing inventory of items available for auction in order for eBay to continue to promote the charity, Hom noted.
She hopes cable networks will "think outside the box" and consider one-of-a-kind premiums such as walk-on roles in an upcoming Lifetime Television movie or a backstage studio tour at MTV: Music Television. "Those things usually aren't for sale," she said.
The NAMIC Foundation plans to promote the auction site to its members through a mass electronic-mail message that includes a link to the site. Donations can provide member companies with tax write-offs and also hold the potential to put promotional messages before millions of eyeballs.
"For high-end items, eBay will promote it on their home page as well," Hom said.
The Digital Bridge Alliance was created about a year ago to help educate minorities about the importance of embracing digital technologies.
Last year, the group produced its first round of public-service announcements promoting a pamphlet with information on how to obtain low-cost personal computers and Internet access.
This year, the alliance plans to move to phase two: wiring community centers with PCs and broadband access.
"Cable has two core competencies" that are especially useful to the alliance, Hom said, "media and broadband services."
The Digital Bridge Alliance PSAs were targeted to young adults and heads of households rather than children, Hom said, because adults have the decision-making power to buy computers. "Getting the computer in the home is key," she added.
Donations can be sent to the Digital Bridge Alliance, One Centerpointe Drive, Suite 410, La Palma, CA 90623. More information is available at the NAMIC Web site [ www.namic.com