How product giving is a ‘slam dunk’ for retailers

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Holiday 2011Donating unwanted products to organizations that help people in times of need is undoubtedly a win-win for retailers. But as many companies have found, getting the right products to the right people isn’t always easy. Recipients have to be vetted, distribution has to be arranged, and goods often have to be tracked. Doing this project on your own can be time-intensive, frustrating and sometimes totally fruitless.

That’s where Good360 comes in. The organization, which used to be known as Gifts In Kind International, is a full-service product donation company that makes the process as easy as possible for retailers. Their partners include many of the top retail brands including Walmart, Gap, Kohl’s, Williams-Sonoma, The Children’s Place, CVS and more.

Cindy Hallberlin, Good360 President and CEO

With many companies thinking about product donation in the run up to the holiday season, we reached out to Good360 President and CEO Cindy Hallberlin to share details about what retailers can gain from product donation (hint: it’s not just about the warm and fuzzies – there are sustainability and tax benefits too) and how businesses can go about sharing unwanted goods with people who really do need them. Read on for her insights.

What types of products can retailers donate during the holiday
season to best meet the needs of the nonprofits you work with?

Because we serve more than 22,000 nonprofits, product needs are broad. Women’s shelters need clothes, personal care products, mattresses and bedding. After-school programs need books, sports equipment, and toys. And communities trying to rebuild from floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes need building supplies, tools, housewares or home furnishings. But one thing is certain: everyone needs technology—whether new or refurbished—and especially computers.

How does the holiday season compare to the rest of the year in terms of donations? Is this a busier time of year for you?

This season is our busiest because our corporate donors want to quickly turnover year-end inventory, including holiday returns, and garner the enhanced tax benefits from product donation. At the same time, nonprofits are desperate to get goods to those in need to make the season jolly and help keep people safe, healthy and warm. Mix it all together and you have a very dynamic environment at Good360!

What are some of your favorite stories about the communities and individuals retailers have helped during the holiday season?

There are many but one in particular comes to mind.  Last fall, Anna’s Linens found themselves with brand new fleece blankets that they were not able to sell because of a misprint on the packaging. They contacted Good360 and we were able to find groups that could go directly to one of their nearly 300 stores to pick up the blankets. As a result, we helped Anna’s Linens distribute tens of thousands of fleece blankets to individuals just in time for the coldest months and were able to clear out the stockrooms in time for the holiday rush.

You work with many big names from the retail world – The Home Depot, Disney, Bed Bath & Beyond. What about smaller retailers? Can they donate smaller amounts of goods on a more local basis through your website?

Absolutely. It’s as easy as going to our website. We have a team that will vet each donation opportunity, whether it’s one-time or ongoing, to make sure that it matches the needs of our nonprofits.

The concept of retailers donating excess inventory to causes has been around for a while. How has it evolved over time?

For us, we’ve really seen the conversation shift from just asset management to how product donations can advance the business in a more strategic way. Retailers can achieve multiple objectives including waste diversion, loss prevention, brand enhancement, employee and community engagement, energy and bottom line savings. In fact, Indiana University recently completed some research that will be released shortly, which lays out a compelling business case for product giving.

As well as helping people in need, donations from retailers can also have positive effects on the environment. Can you tell us more about this?

Each year, we divert literally tons of products from landfills into the hands of those who need them most. A perfect example is The Home Depot’s Framing Hope Program that has saved $1.4 million in energy costs, about 2500 garbage trucks worth of landfill space, enough power to cover 119 homes a year, 3.3 million kWh of energy consumption, and CO2 emissions equivalent to planting 517 acres of pine forest!

Good360 has been named one of Forbes top ten managed charities. Congratulations! What are some of the secrets to your success?

Our success is in our people and their unwavering dedication to helping nonprofits help those they serve. Their passion builds resilience during tough economic times and creates a culture of continuous improvement; we are constantly in search of creative ways to improve efficiencies and reduce expenses.

Some retailers may find the prospect of donating excess inventory a little daunting, as there must be a lot of work involved in terms of tracking donations and distributing goods. What does Good360 do to help retailers walk through these processes?

That’s exactly why we’re here—to make donating products as easy and impactful as possible for companies. We listen to what donors want and customize solutions in response. We provide a turnkey, full-service operation, that includes vetting all recipient charities to ensure they are qualified 501(c)(3)s, schools or libraries and understand donor restrictions around use of the products donated. We handle logistics, tracking, distributing, monitoring, reporting and troubleshooting for every donation.

How did you get involved in the charitable giving business?

I was a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at US Foodservice and, in that capacity, I started the company’s first corporate charitable giving program. In less than a year, we donated over $4 million in food to Feeding America. I experienced first-hand the tremendous satisfaction in donating goods for the greater good. This led me to my current position as CEO of Good360.

Tell me something retailers might not know about charitable giving.

Product giving is becoming a movement… in fact it’s a growing portion of the overall charitable pie. Today’s economic realities mean that companies have less cash to give—not less heart. And now there’s actually a business case that lays out the ROI of product philanthropy that makes it a compelling option over liquidation, and a slam dunk over disposal. Every day, someone or some community is experiencing a crisis or disaster. That’s why Good360 is here – to help fill the product gap when needs are acute, for those crises that don’t rise to national or international attention; or when media attention wanes after a disaster and communities begin to rebuild. That’s when the needs are often greatest but the desire for action has dissipated.

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