How Furniture Link helped my organization

Hello, fellow furniture bank community members!

Many of you have already met Annalee Sawiak, CEO of Furniture Link Inc. and have a sense on what the goals of Furniture Link are, but as its first community client, I wanted to share our own experience with Furniture Link Inc. to help you visualize how they may be able to support your own organization.

ABOUT FURNITURE BANK TORONTO

We’ve been in operation for over 20 years and have worked our way to supporting nearly 5,000 families each year. As large an impact that this is, we operate in a housing crisis that needs furniture support services for over 25,000 families! That’s a lot of furniture to collect, select, and deliver. We’ve learned that we can’t do it all on our own, we are committed to innovating, partnering, and collaborating our way to solving this challenge for Toronto, and where we can help all of our fellow community members help them as well. Historically we had assumed we would solve all these problems growing our trucking activities to collect from donors and handle the deliveries for our client families.

We have grown to become a small trucking organization in Toronto with 60% of our 50 staff linked to the trucking social enterprise activity. We’ve deployed lots of technology to coordinate them, and built a brand and marketing presence to attract donors. From 1 truck in 2004, we finished 2018 with 11 trucks. Unlike other years though, it became clear we’d reached a point that the charity was at risk if we continued as we’ve always done. After Furniture Bank Toronto moved from our top line strategic plan to an execution plan in 2018 we saw the need for a business corporation to be formed that was focused on sourcing, negotiating and documenting commercial relationships to provide the not for profit universe with good quality items for redistribution by creating a self-sustaining revenue flow.

With Annalee’s commercial and contracting experience, she has assumed this mission (You can read how Annalee came to form Furniture Link in the About Us page), but the important things for my organizations and other furniture banks working with her company are to understand:

  1. Furniture Link Inc is a social enterprise. It is not a charity and does not carry out the operations of distributing furniture and other household goods based on need.
  2. The flow of goods arranged through Furniture Link is intended to be offered free of charge to the charities (like us) that join the furniture bank community network.
  3. Membership for furniture banks is free of charge to the free good program.
  4. Furniture Link Inc. will act as a facilitator with corporations with furniture and household goods and connect with interested community members when opportunities present themselves.
  5. Community members interested in the free goods would have no obligation to accept goods or services from Furniture Link Inc or any associated partner.
  6. Furniture Link Inc.’s objective is to facilitate the growth of the not for profit community that redistribute these household goods and furniture with the sharing of member news, case studies, statistics, templates and strategies at no cost.

FURNITURE LINK IS HELPING ON THESE PILOTS

In the last 4 months Furniture Link has supported Furniture Bank Toronto in a series of pilots and trials that are supporting:

  • MORE DONATIONS – Expanding product donations through retailers without any cost to our organization.
  • MORE TRANSPORT OPTIONS – Piloting a series of new transportation pilots for collection and delivery that could provide a solution that will permit all the trucking capacity we need, without the costs and provide the flow of funds and furniture we need to continue the work in the community.
  • NEW FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES – Collaborating with the local government and their solid waste department to see how a successful furniture collection and redistribution model supports their waste strategies.
  • SUPPORTING NEW FURNITURE BANKS – Furniture Link is supporting us with the establishment of a new furniture bank in a community an hour away from Toronto.

So not all of these things have worked perfectly or instantly, but I can say having a corporation advocating on our side, we’ve seen a big improvement in prospects for 2019. Furniture Link looks to support furniture banks coast to coast to coast so if you haven’t spoken to Annalee I will be happy to make an introduction or join a call just email me at dan.kershaw@furniturebank.org and I will connect you to Annalee and team.

Regards

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