Turning Inventory Into Philanthropy: An Interview With ShipBob Partner giveNkind

ShipBob is excited to announce our updated partnership with giveNkind, a free web service through which ShipBob clients will be able to easily donate inventory to registered 501(c)(3) organizations. The partnership will allow ShipBob merchants to repurpose returned, canceled, or surplus inventory that matches a nonprofit’s donation wish list.

To celebrate this new chapter of our partnership, I sat down with giveNkind founder Emily Petway to learn more about her background, the genesis of giveNkind, and how folks in our community can get involved.

Getting inspired

Jon: Between your mission, purpose, and vision, I noticed a unique common thread: The notion that this kind of donating is equally impactful for the person giving as it is for the person receiving. Was this the genesis of how giveNkind came to be?

Emily: Prior to returning home with my family to Chicago, I was a high school teacher outside of Atlanta. I had amazing students, some of whom worked jobs to help support their family. In talking with a particular student who was always studying, working, or helping to care for her siblings, I asked her if she was going to the school homecoming dance. When she told me that she wanted to go but couldn’t afford the dress, I was saddened that this excellent student was having to miss out on a night of being a kid and having fun.

That’s when I found Becca’s Closet, a nation-wide organization that collects and distributes formalwear to students in need free of charge. Starting with 1 box of 100 dresses, my chapter grew over 7 years to over 3,000 dresses to serve students all across the Atlanta metro area.

At one point, we were given a free-standing, 1,200-foot commercially zoned house at no cost — under one condition: We needed to keep up the lawn so that we could meet the city code. If the grass got too long and we received a violation, we would have to move. It became very important for our organization to find a free lawnmower. Through a free repurposing site, I monitored the posts to await a lawnmower offer. There was a lawnmower offered, but, being in class teaching at that time, I missed the post. In the first-come, first-serve system, the mower was claimed by a man who needed an extra mower for his lake house.

What was a convenience to one individual was a vital need to our nonprofit’s operations.

This was the point when I realized that nonprofits needed a platform to post their needs and a place for donors to show nonprofits what they have to give. Nonprofits would be the only recipients of the goods, making sure donations were going to those who need them the most.

Growing the organization

Jon: From there, how did giveNkind begin and grow?

Emily: I moved back to Chicago with my family in the summer of 2012 and began the organizing documents for giveNkind. Years later, we developed our site, built 100% by volunteers, including service grants from JP Morgan Chase, University of Illinois Business Consulting MBA alumni, and the team of volunteers who meet weekly to work on the project.

We’re the first organization of our kind.

We’re a registered 501(c)(3); we know nonprofits because we are a nonprofit.

Our site allows registered 501c3 charities to receive items, so donors know they are helping organizations that need it the most. Individual donors and nonprofits connect directly, allowing nonprofits to make sure the donor gift fits their needs best and allows donors to see how their gift impacts the community.

Staying agile

Jon: As our businesses have grown, our relationship has evolved. What can you say about staying agile as a nonprofit?

Emily: Regardless of what part of the nonprofit sector a charity covers, we’re all looking to leave the world a better place. This means that by nature, nonprofits are always growing and changing to meet the needs of those they serve. Even if the need remains the same over time, nonprofits must be creative to stay sustainable and bring more attention to their cause.

The needs, expectations, and even the ways in which nonprofits communicate with clients and donors is ever-changing. The most important assets a nonprofit can have — beyond the ever-present need for funding — are flexibility, persistence, and belief in people and their cause.

Benefitting the community

Jon: Something I’m personally passionate about is supporting local causes in the neighborhoods ShipBob operates in. Which groups and organizations does giveNkind benefit?

Emily: giveNkind currently has 35 registered nonprofit partners. Their missions vary from transitional housing, to supporting veterans, to animal fostering, to education programs, and so many more. These organizations are all in the Chicagoland area and we’re looking to continue to grow our network.

The only requirement to become a giveNkind partner is being a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization — this allows organizations to give donors receipts for their tax records. You can learn more about all of the organizations we serve on our Nonprofit Community Partners page.

Jon: What are the most needed items?

Emily: With our nonprofit partners covering a wide range of causes, which means the need for donations is diverse. While many organizations share similar wishlist items, such as personal care products and school supplies, I want to emphasize that there are also less obvious needs.

It’s important for donors to remember that while an item may no longer be useful for you, it may be just what an organization needs.

Celebrating success

Jon: Tell me one of your favorite giveNkind success stories.

Emily: One of my favorites is Cradles to Crayons. Andrew registered as a giveNkind donor because he was looking for a good home for the baby clothes that his two children had outgrown. Through giveNkind, Andrew connected with Cradles to Crayons and arranged a time to drop off his bags of donations.

After arriving at Cradles to Crayons, Andrew took a tour and learned more about the mission of the organization. He ended up bringing back his whole family to volunteer! We were able to connect more than just items — we connected people, expanding Cradles to Crayons’ reach and volunteer team.

Looking ahead

Jon: That’s wonderful to hear. Turning a one time donator into a volunteer has to make you proud of what you’ve built. What’s next for giveNkind?

Emily: giveNkind has big plans, including deepening our partnership with ShipBob.ShipBob is an innovative, forward-thinking company that cares about its team, customers, and community. We’re happy to be working with such a creative team to help nonprofits.

We’re growing additional partnerships with businesses who have excess, returned, or abandoned goods that can benefit nonprofits. In addition to our efforts to connect individual donors, we are also reaching out to community groups to promote our “Adopt an Item” or “Adopt a Wishlist” campaign. We’re encouraging groups to focus on collecting either one item that can be donated to a number of our partners, or an entire wishlist for a single organization. Either way, a large impact can be made when people come together to help.

October also starts our three-month iHeart Media Chicago Community Partnership! We’ll be on the six iHeart Radio stations in Chicago for 50 public service announcements and an hour-long interview to share more about giveNkind. Stay tuned!

Getting involved

Jon: Now that folks know what’s going on with giveNkind, how can they get involved?

Emily: We are constantly looking for volunteers to help us:

  • Host a collection drive for one item or adopt the wish list of a nonprofit partner whose cause you support.
  • Spread the word: Communicate with nonprofits and donors and let them know about giveNkind.
  • Donate funds to giveNkind so we can continue to make more connections for nonprofits and donors. For every dollar donated, nonprofits receive so much more value in donated in-kind gifts.
  • Reach out to us! If you have questions about the site, hosting an item drive or adopting a wish list, or an item you have to give that you would like to talk about, I would love to hear from you at emily@givenkind.org.

Jon: Thank you to Emily for chatting with us, and to the whole giveNkind team for everything they do for our communities — and for giving our clients the opportunity to turn excess inventory into a donation that can make a huge difference.

If you are a current ShipBob client and would like to donate to giveNkind, click here to learn more.