When the e-auction was over, a hot new Handspring wireless phone had received 53 bids and brought in more than $3,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, well over the phone's retail value. In total, the youth mentoring organization received more than $30,000 as the benefactor of an eBay/Consumer Electronic Association charity event, which culminated during the 2002 International Consumer Electronics Show in January.

According to CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro, fund raising is often tied in with CES, but the e-auction format was a first for them. The fund raiser was one facet of a strategic partnership between eBay and CEA, which, Shapiro says, had benefits for both sides as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“We want excitement for our show,” he says. “We want new things. We like helping charity. We like the halo effect from eBay,” and the dividends that come from partnering with a successful organization cut both ways, he says. “They [eBay] wanted the credibility from CEA; they wanted our halo effect. They wanted recognition from retailers and manufacturers that eBay isn't just for individuals selling stuff to each other; it's also for retailers and manufacturers. They wanted to use our venue, the Consumer Electronics Show, which is the world's largest consumer technology event, to get across their technology message.”

Shapiro was impressed with the ease of the auction process. “It was not a difficult sell,” he says. The only efforts required of CEA was a co-signed letter from Shapiro and eBay chief executive Meg Whitman announcing the project, a press release, and a link from the CEA Web site to the auction. CEA selected the charity from a list of a dozen that eBay recommended. The logistics for the 30 products that were auctioned off were handled by Return Buy.

“Everyone won here,” says Shapiro. “The companies that donated products got terrific publicity. Everyone felt great because we helped a great charity. And eBay received recognition in the consumer electronic industry.”