12 Jul CRP Spotlight: How Agape Distribution Serves Families in Need at Massive Scale in Partnership with Good360
Pastor John Geissler would have an excellent future in the retail business if he wanted one. As the CEO of Agape Distribution in Sidney, Ohio, he’s responsible for operating a free food pantry that feeds more than 22,000 people every month. In 2017, Agape gave out more than 40,676 food orders or approximately 2.5 million pounds of food (each family receives 90 pounds worth of groceries per order per month).
How is Agape able to feed so many people? The food pantry is supported through generous donations from individual and corporate donors — and the income it generates by operating as a Good360 Community Redistribution Partner (CRP). CRPs mimic our unique philanthropic model by taking in truckload-sized product donations from companies such as Walmart and Home Depot, and distributing them to qualified nonprofit organizations in their region. Nonprofit members, ranging from churches to social service agencies to women’s shelters, pay nominal fees to access Agape’s warehouse and pick up needed goods. That’s where Geissler’s retail instincts come in handy. While the pastor didn’t come to the job with experience running a store, he’s been quick to embrace many of the strategies of a successful consumer-focused business.
For one, Agape makes use of technology in a way that’s unusual for a nonprofit of its size. Every item that comes into its warehouse through Good360 is tagged with a barcode. This gives Geissler and his staff the ability to know which items are moving better than others, and which ones are languishing on the shelves. By tracking the movement of goods, Agape has learned to anticipate the “shopping” habits of its members and respond accordingly. “You have to think of it as a retail business,” Geissler says. “We can tell exactly when people shop and what they’re buying. For some reason, most of the nonprofits shop on Thursdays, so we stay open late on Thursday nights. On Saturdays, many of the nonprofits are busy remodeling their offices or helping to rebuild homes. That’s when hardware supplies from Home Depot are popular items, so we’re open until noon on Saturdays.”
Last year, Geissler introduced a loyalty card program. Nonprofits that spend more than $20 during a trip to its warehouse get a stamp. For every 10 stamps, they receive $25 worth of goods for free. That program could end up raising tens of thousands of additional dollars to support Agape’s food pantry. Another innovation that Agape leverages that might be unusual for a nonprofit agency is announcing “flash sales” via text messaging. Geissler calls these “green dot” sales. Slow-moving items get tagged with a green sale sticker and they are given away for free to members who show up at the warehouse that day.“When they come in to get the green dot items, they usually walk out with something else,” he says.Agape also utilizes high-definition cameras with facial recognition technology situated throughout its warehouse. This allows the organization to keep track of volunteers and the number of hours that they’re putting in. It’s more accurate and more efficient than using sign-up sheets.
Developing and maintaining a rich database of its “customer base” has also been key to Agape’s ability to grow its impact year after year. Every person who uses the food pantry must register first with the organization, allowing it to track demographic information and other important data. “We have their birthdays, ages, and backgrounds,” Geissler says. “We know if they’re veterans or if they receive aid for dependent children. At a punch of a button, we can get a complete report on all 22,000 people who visit the pantry.” In 2017, Agape introduced its Mobile Rural Food Pantry, knowing that some of the people showing up at its food pantry were traveling long distances to get assistance. The “hunger assault vehicle” carries enough supplies for three days worth of food to feed 75 families.
“It’s a neighborhood grocery store on wheels,” Geissler says. “We drive into rural communities to serve their needs… The very first time we took it out, the very first person who came through the mobile food pantry was a man in a wheelchair. He was a man who used to shop here, and I said, ‘I haven’t seen you at our food pantry in Sidney.’ He said, ‘I can’t afford the gas to drive into town.’” Geissler says Agape’s partnership with Good360 is critically important to serving its community at such a large scale. The organization receives up to four truckloads of products every week from our truckload donation partners, which translate into income that supports its food pantry while also allowing other nonprofits in the area get the goods that they need to run their operations.
“Product philanthropy is one of the greatest tools we have to change our cities,” Geissler says. “When people don’t have a job or not a very good one, it boils down to the basics. They don’t have diapers for the babies. They don’t have soap to wash their clothes. They don’t have food to put on the table. These products help them at the most basic level because we have the shampoo, the sleeping bags, the mattresses that they need. It all happens through product philanthropy, and it’s brilliant.” To find a Good360 Community Redistribution Partner in your area, look here. If you’re part of a nonprofit organization that’s interested in becoming a CRP, contact our Director of Strategic Partnerships, Melissa Evans, at 703-299-7524 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.