Three Projects in Three Months … We Can Do This!

Three Projects in Three Months … We Can Do This!


We can do it!

Three Projects in Three Months ... We Can Do This! 1

Annalee Sawiak, CEO & Founder, Furniture Link

Sustainable Circular Economy Solutions for End of Use Furniture are within our grasp.

It has been a crazy three months.

Together with Dan Kershaw, Executive Director at Furniture Bank in Toronto, I got tired of hearing how hard it would be to take the huge flow of unwanted furniture from homes and returns and give it to people who need it. So, we set out to change the way it is done.  Dan and his team not only let us test out our ideas, but they also lent their ‘back end’ of administrative services, marketing, donation receipts and item tracking to another furniture bank on a shared cost basis to launch a new Furniture Bank for Barrie’s Redwood Park Communities in days. Their know how made the magic happen.

Using the experience provided by a 2018 trial with 1-800-Got-Junk? and Furniture Bank,  we took our pitch to 3 different moving companies – one national player, You Move Me, associated with 
1-800-Got-Junk?,  one local Toronto start up and one established local Barrie, Ontario mover. Presented with a unique opportunity like this they all said YES! With these 3 trials we can move forward with confidence (and more than a little excitement) to change the landscape in communities across Canada and the USA.

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What Were These Projects?

Monetize Outsource Furniture Removal and Keep Furniture Coming

Our trials showed us how charities can exit the trucking loop. We directed inbound calls and e mails asking for furniture to be picked up from homes over to a collaborator. The collaborator arranged the furniture removal pickup and brought furniture to the charity partner who gave the donors a receipt for the value of furniture donated. Our charity partner kept the furniture coming in the doors and the cash generated pays for some of the administrative costs of running the charity. These results demonstrate that a charity does not have to deal with running a trucking company or explaining to annoyed people why charities don’t provide free services – they can leverage existing commercial transport solutions instead.  

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Furniture Link facilitated a 20 Week Pilot with Second Closet, and Furniture Bank

Scorecard? The Furniture Bank charity took in 10% more furniture, filled 185 more homes and raised $10,000 for administrative costs for the program

Outsource Delivery at Low Rates

Those people receiving the furniture are our stakeholders and we do not like making them wait for their furniture. On the other hand, our charity partners struggle with the high cost of maintaining a trucking fleet. With a little innovative pricing and scheduling we were able to outsource and be able to offer weekend delivery service. An added bonus? The faster the furniture moves out the door, the more furniture we can take and the more homes we can fill.

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You Move Me & Furniture Bank in Toronto undertaking delivery pilot.

Those Returned Mattress and Furniture Purchases Make a Difference.

Ever wonder what happens to returned furniture? Lots of moving and removal companies are paid to pick up returned goods and most of the retailers want to see them stay out of landfill. We showed that using collaboration with movers, retailers and furniture charities, we could move those goods in to reuse, track the impact and provide furniture charities with some cash flow to support their operations. When the retailers specify that the movers collaborate with our charity partners, our families get great stuff and we don’t trash usable furniture – a win win win for all parties. A great example is how Endy Mattress has ensured furniture returns create better homes in support of charities like Furniture Bank in Toronto. 

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What did we prove?

We can drive socially and environmentally minded new business to collaborating moving and removal companies without additional customer acquisition costs.

These same socially minded and ecologically conscious retailers enhance their brand to their customers.

We can share the community impact of this upside with the collaborators and use it to put more furniture in the hands of charities.

The charities can focus on doing what they were created to do – help their stakeholders in communities across Canada and the USA.

Everybody wins – companies, retailers, donors, governments, charities and the families who most need us to be supporting them as they get their new homes started!

So, what makes us so excited?

These experiments validate 8 key findings that will drive Furniture Link in support of the Furniture Bank Network going forward:

  • We’ve demonstrated there is absolutely enough unwanted furniture moving around communities to supply local furniture reuse charities (aka Furniture Banks).
  • We’ve seen that when furniture charities do not have to hustle to run trucking operations, and have reliable streams of funds and furniture that can focus on helping their core stakeholders – the mothers, fathers and children moving from homelessness into homes and a new bright future.
  • We’ve demonstrated the right moving companies will make great partners when we create the right collaborative arrangements that motivate a sustainable financial model.
  • We can make it easy for all business and households to direct furniture into reuse and away from landfill.
  • We can direct new business to these moving and removal companies with a social impact mandate.
  • We can make our furniture reuse charities more financially stable without public funding.
  • We are creating a new self-financing system that has social impact, waste reduction, without new infrastructure costs.
  • We’ve seen this activity will play a pivotal role in creating new and expanding furniture reuse charities in any community that wants to support housing first homes second programs.

Now that we know we can do it, what is stopping us? Nothing.

Let’s get out there and make it happen.

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Keep up to date with our projects.

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Meet the network of furniture reuse charities and nonprofits!

How Toronto’s fastest growing ‘valet storage’ startup Second Closet is helping Furniture Bank increase social impact.

How Toronto’s fastest growing ‘valet storage’ startup Second Closet is helping Furniture Bank increase social impact.

Re-posted from LINKEDIN

How Toronto’s fastest growing ‘valet storage’ startup Second Closet is helping Furniture Bank increase social impact. 9

At Furniture Bank as we look for creative, efficient and effective ways to scale our environmental and social impact. We are working with Furniture Link Inc. to demonstrate how partnerships between business and charities can create sustainable models for maximum social and environmental impact. Over the life of our organization we have diverted more than 20,000 cubic meters of goods from landfill, which created savings for the city exceeding $8,000,000 and turned housing in to homes for over 100,000 men, women and children in our community.

Furniture Bank is a registered charity that provides furniture to our city’s most vulnerable members. as community shelters and social agencies are lucky enough to secure housing for their families. When you have an empty apartment and no financial support, you can spend years living off the floor, using milk crates for chairs, clothing piles for mattresses, and garbage bags for storage.

At the same time we see unwanted furniture all around us. While statistics in Toronto are limited, the trends from other countries are informative. In the U.S. the EPA reports that furniture accounted for 9.8 million tons (4.1 percent) and of all household waste and was the number one least-recycled item in a household. In the UK reports suggest Britons throw away more than 300,000 tonnes of reusable furniture every year.

Our primary goal?

To secure more furniture donations for families experiencing furniture poverty here in Toronto and divert usable furniture from landfill.

On March 11th Furniture Link Inc. helped us launch a pilot program with Second Closet to test the use of outsource resources to expand our collection of usable goods without additional investment or cost to Furniture Bank.

In these first 43 days, the pilot has diverted 736 items of home furnishings from landfill into the homes of over 50 families emerging from crisis and displacement. Stacked one atop another, these items measure a full CN Tower’s height of furniture! Based on volume, the pilot saved landfill space that has a value of over $100,000 and created homes for 50 more families from our community agencies and shelters. These same 80 donors got the added bonus of significant charitable receipts for their donations.

More Furniture + More Transportation + More Resources =

More Impact

This is a complex problem. There is more than enough quality furniture, and unfortunately growing need from community agencies and their families. The challenge for Furniture Bank is accessing the furniture, transporting it, and resourcing this redistribution network.

Our vision is to partner with our existing and new stakeholders to divert good quality but unwanted furniture from landfill to households that desperately need it.

Our pilot with Second Closet, and Furniture Link is our most recent program to engage in adding a social component to the Circular Economy, with a sustainable model to deliver our maximum environmental and social impact. We are piloting “more access” and “better transport” without requiring more resources from the Charity.

Our first Second Closet delivery from Furniture Bank donors!

Seeking More Partners for Social Impact and Waste Diversion!

As part of a network of similar charities across Canada and the US, we are working with Furniture Link to forge sustainable commercial relationships to divert more household goods from landfill to homes that need them. We are seeking relationships with removal and moving companies, retailers, manufacturers, government agencies and stakeholders In the Zero Waste movement.

Much more to share on Second Closet, Furniture Link partnerships, expanding our impact in the Toronto area and illustrating the environmental and cost savings to municipalities of a thriving furniture bank in your community.

Where do coffee tables go?

Where do coffee tables go?

Furniture Bank Toronto has found a great way to visualize how to express the impact of in-kind donations to corporate and community partners. As long as you are capturing the items you are collecting and the Zip/postal code of the donor and beneficiary family receiving an item it is not hard today to ‘map’ where the donations come from and go to.

Today’s Example

Later this afternoon we are having a “Build-A-Thon” at a large telco in downtown Toronto. A team of 110 office executives will have 1 hour to build 55 coffee tables and bookcases. They will be collected and brought to the Toronto Furniture Bank and then passed on to families. They should all be in new homes by Friday!  You’ve probably noticed donors have a very hard time visualizing the size of the problem, and we find maps help.

 If you are interested in ‘how’ – let me know and I can write a member post on the steps to do it. Email me and maybe we can collaborate on a joint version. If we all provided data in a consistent format we can map anywhere. 


So here are 2 maps visualizing ‘2018 Coffee Table & Bookshelf’ community impact:

Where donations came from (with our pickup service)

Where do coffee tables go? 10

Where these same donations we sent too Where do coffee tables go? 11

Furniture Link Case Studies