Social business, Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

By Todd Cohen

In 2008, The Home Depot approached Good360, formerly Gifts In Kind, about working together to provide the Atlanta-based retailer with a way to put to productive use inventory it was not able to sell.

Good360, based on Alexandria, Va., worked with the information technology department at The Home Depot to help identify the products the company would be donating.

“We listened,” explained Cindy Hallberlin, president and CEO of Good360. “We didn’t come in with a cookie cutter plan. We said, ‘What’s your plan and vision?’ We got aligned, not just with management but also with technology. We made sure there’s a marriage between their system and ours so we could be as efficient as possible.”

The effort began modestly, with The Home Depot distributing that inventory to 25 Good360 stores where 25 local nonprofits could pick up that donated inventory.

By 2009, finding that some stores had more donated inventory than the local nonprofits could handle, Good360 worked with The Home Depot on a strategy to develop warehouses so that instead of donating goods to individual nonprofits, many local nonprofits could visit the warehouses to pick up donated goods .

Now, the partnership has grown to nearly 1,300 stores and five warehouses, developed by local nonprofit partners with seed grants from The Home Depot.

“You need to listen and understand the needs of your corporate partner, as well as the needs of those you serve,” Hallberlin said. “If you’re meeting only the needs of the corporation and not meeting the needs of the end users, it’s not a good program.”

Overall, the partnership has helped distribute donated products to over 600,000 low-income families, diverting that inventory from landfills and in some cases saving money by not sending it back to a distribution center.

It also has connected thousands of charities with The Home Depot, helping to create good will and customer loyalty among the supporters and clients of those charities, Hallberlin said.

A single nonprofit served by the partnership, for example, purchased $500,000 worth of products at The Home Depot in a single day for a building project, she said.

“Nonprofits have collective buying power,” she explained. “If you get donations from The Home Depot, you’re going to go there for discretionary purchases.”

Next: Companies work with nonprofits to build markets

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofit to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

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