The Logistical Challenge of Making Good on Our Mission - Good360

The Logistical Challenge of Making Good on Our Mission

Good360’s mission is to transform lives by strengthening local communities through product philanthropy.

We would never be able to affect so many lives and reach so many nonprofit organizations around the country and the world without the substantial, long-term investments we’ve made in logistics, both within our own organization and through partnerships with companies such as UPS.

Each year, we facilitate the movement of more than $300 million worth of donated goods from the warehouses and stores of our corporate partners to our network of more than 60,000 nonprofits. That’s a lot of semi-trucks, pallets, and boxes!

We’re constantly looking for ways to make our supply chain more efficient. The cheaper and faster that we can move donations to their end destination, the more cost savings we can pass along to our nonprofit partners — which means we’re all making a bigger impact on the communities that we’re serving.

One of the biggest ways we’ve been able to maximize efficiency is with the establishment of our National Distribution Center in Omaha, Nebraska. We opened the center in 2012, centralizing an operation that once spanned 12 different warehouses located around the country, each requiring its own staff.

Now all roads lead to Omaha. Every day, we bring in donations by the truckload to our warehouse where we break down the shipments in a process we call “production.” We’ll sort the donated goods into more manageable cartons and prepare them for shipment to other parts of the country.

Each carton is labeled with a sticker that allows us to track its movement with our warehousing software. Our merchandising team then gives each carton a description that goes into our online catalog from which nonprofit members can browse and order their items.

For instance, we recently received nearly 40 pallets of household batteries from a major retailer. These batteries came in all different sizes (AAA, AA, D, etc.) and some were out of their packages and loose. To make them more useful for our nonprofits, our team sorted the batteries by size into cartons of 50 packages that could be ordered from the catalog.

In other cases, we might put together cartons of cleaning supplies after processing a large shipment from CVS or Walmart. We may need to sort pallets of donated clothing into men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes, or bundle together jackets and sweaters for a winter-related carton. Each truckload of donations can contain a large variety of items, and it’s up to our production team (a mix of paid and volunteer staff) in Omaha to sort through and organize them in the most efficient way.

Our ultimate goal is to make these items easier for our nonprofit members to receive and use. Many nonprofits don’t have the manpower to unload and sort through semi-truckloads of goods, nor do they have the facilities necessary to receive them. We manage the production process on our end to ensure that members get only what they need when they need it.

Through a critical partnership with UPS, we are able to ship cartons out to our nonprofit network at an extremely cost effective rate, which allows member organizations to stretch their operating budgets.

In addition to our Omaha distribution center, we facilitate the movement of donated goods through a handful of other means:

  1. Our Direct Truckload Program, which allows nonprofits to receive semi-truckloads of donations on a regular schedule
  2. Individual truckloads of donations that are made available from corporate partners on an irregular basis (i.e. once or several times a year)
  3. Our Retail Distribution Partnership (RDP) program that matches nonprofits with local retailers for regular pick-ups of needed goods

Our truckload distribution program enables larger nonprofits to take delivery of full truckloads of product directly from our corporate partners such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Grainger. To participate in the truckload program, qualified organizations must be able to show that they can make good use of donations at this volume and that they have adequate warehousing facilities and staffing to handle these large shipments.

On our end, we are constantly in a process of figuring out which nonprofit organization will receive which truckload, and the fastest and cheapest way to move freight from donor locations to their final destinations.

To do this, we employ a network of “cross dock” warehouses located around the country, from New York to Nevada. These warehouses allow us to temporarily hold truckloads of donations received from corporate partners (once trucks are filled by the companies, they usually need to be moved out as soon as possible) while our placement team coordinates which nonprofits will receive them. Then the freight trailers are outbound within a day or two to the appropriate nonprofit location.

To get the best pricing on shipping, we rely on freight brokers who reach out for quotes and assign carriers to take each truckload. This pricing changes constantly depending on current demand for drivers and other factors such as weather conditions in the area (truck operators are reluctant to drive in horrible weather, as you might imagine).

Every week, we handle the movement of 15 to 20 semi-truckloads of product around the country.

Because we are often picking up truckloads from the same company location week after week — for instance, the return center for a large retailer such as Walmart — our team has developed strong relationships with the staff members working at these warehouses. These relationships help facilitate the constant communication that’s needed to seamlessly move hundreds of millions of dollars in product each year.

While their task is demanding and relentless, our logistics team understands that their work is critically important to the success of our overall mission. Every ounce of efficiency that they can squeeze out of our operations ultimately pays dividends in terms of the impact that we can make in the lives of the people that our nonprofit organizations are serving every day.

Jason Boon
jason@good360.org