People won’t pay thousands of dollars for a can of soup.
But they may pay that much for something with a little more value, especially if they know the money is going to a good cause.
That’s the thinking that led Matthew J. Podoba to come up with a creative plan – and a friendly wager – to raise money for the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
It’s a plan that involves Craigslist – and humble soup.
“It’s kind of hip,” said Podoba. “It’s kind of neat.”
The idea of the listing is that people would see the soup, read Podoba’s description of his efforts to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, and call or email him with offers of items in exchange for his soup.
The idea got started when Podoba and a friend recently decided that they would compete to see who could do better when it came to raising money for local charities.
Podoba, an Angola resident who works as director of a nonprofit technology-focused organization in Buffalo, picked the Alzheimer’s Association. His friend John Iorio picked the Buffalo City Mission.
For the fundraiser, Podoba decided to list something small and simple on the Craigslist Buffalo website, a clearinghouse for buying, selling and bartering.
He listed a single container of soup earlier this month, putting it in the “bartering” section of the Craigslist website.
Podoba said, in the listing, that he was offering for trade a microwavable container of “Healthy Choice Thai Style Chicken Soup with Brown Rice.” Podoba said the soup sells for less than $2. Iorio, too, began with soup on the website.
But, Podoba said, the soup is not the point.
“Have you ever seen those shows on cable, the Bartering Kings, things like that? It’s kind of like that,” said Podoba, who also does IT work for the Alzheimer’s Association in Amherst on a volunteer basis. “You start off with an item on Craigslist, in their bartering section. Something that doesn’t cost anything – something that’s kind of quirky and funny.”
“People obviously aren’t going to be excited to barter for chicken soup,” he said. “But they’re going to be excited to barter if they know it’s going to charity.
“They are going to offer you something more expensive than what you currently have.”
The strategy has worked out – to some extent.
Podoba has gotten lots of inquiries, he said, and he has received a few solid offers.
At the local Alzheimer’s Association, administrators thought his idea was a great one.
“Matt has been very generous sharing his IT expertise with us, and we are thrilled he has chosen the Alzheimer’s Association to benefit from his delicious and fun idea,” said Leilani Pelletier, the executive director of the local chapter.
A little over a week ago, Podoba made his first trade: the container of soup for a Lancaster man’s collection of vintage oil cans and garage paraphernalia.
“We traded the soup for these collectible petrol cans, old-time collectible cans,” Podoba said. “What we’re hoping is, we can barter those for something else. We’ve gotten some interest and calls, but we’re choosing carefully.”
And Podoba is aiming high.
He has hopes that, as word spreads, the value of the items being offered will go up. The same should happen for his friend’s listing, he said.
“That’s the fun part of it,” Podoba said. “You don’t know. You get this benevolent person who comes along. … Who knows? Somebody might trade a time share in Boca Raton for a chain saw. Who knows?”
Podoba said he has kept the Craigslist listing relatively quiet so far to see whether it would pick up steam on its own.
Soon, he said, he will turn to social media to promote his project more heavily.
“We’re going to promote this on Facebook and Twitter. We really haven’t done that yet,” Podoba said. “Now we’re going to try to actively promote it.”
Podoba said he was inspired to try bartering as a fundraising tool after seeing TV shows on the theme and hearing of the success of similar efforts elsewhere. In one bartering account he heard of, a community group ended up with a van.
His goal for the end of the bartering is to have an item that he can sell for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Then he can give that money to the local Alzheimer’s group.
“We were talking, theoretically, that if we could turn a bowl of soup into a couple of thousand (dollars), we’d be really happy with that,” said Podoba. “I don’t know exactly how it’s going to go.”
But, he said, so far, so good.
“We’ve already gone from $1.79 to a couple hundred dollars, with these old cans,” he said. “So we’ve already made a big step.”
To see Podoba’s posting on Craigslist, go to http://buffalo.craigslist.org/bar/3650922436.html.