Charities Encouraged to Take Advantage of Product Philanthropy

Published on Pro Bono Australia on November 6, 2017 by Wendy Williams.

Alison Covington, who founded Good360 in Australia in 2015 to help companies donate leftover inventory to charitable organisations, said many organisations were still confused by the concept of product philanthropy.

But she told Pro Bono News the last two years had shown it was a way for both the giver and receiver to see more benefits.

“What we’re seeing is that product is hiding in warehouses and it’s a way of people being able to have the benefit of that,” Covington said.

“There’s never enough cash to go around and as you know philanthropists are always having the ask made of them by charities… product philanthropy is able to put more back into the economy really, it’s an economy of goods.”

According to the not for profit, which has the goal of delivering $1 billion of goods to Australians in need, product philanthropy saves the charitable and not for profit sector time, money and resources so they can do more of what they do best.

Product philanthropy is also a way for corporates to realise the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits.

“I think it’s really quite exciting because it often comes from that person in their organisations that says ‘What are we doing with this stuff? We’ve got lots of good stuff, it’s brand new and it’s exciting and we just need a way of giving it to somebody who wants it’.”

She said since launching in 2015, Good360 has distributed millions of dollars worth of goods and was attracting big-name supporters who were sitting up to support “Aussie families who want access to these fabulous goods”.

“We’re almost up to $30 million of goods circulating around here, which is not an insignificant number, looking at the impact that’s having here in Australia,” Covington said.

“It has really quite evolved. You know we’ve got some big businesses working with us now. We just signed up Big W as part of that campaign that we’re pushing out for Christmas.

“We have L’Oreal, which is the world’s largest beauty brand, on board and you know within their portfolio they have Maybelline and Garnier and YSL and Diesel, and all these fantastic brands who are on board and champion this, so you know from a concept of ‘well I wonder if we should give this a go’, to these fabulous brands, it’s not insignificant.”

But Covington said the uptake from charities had not been as big as they had expected.

“One of the interesting things for us is that when we started we thought that charities would be bashing down our doors and we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand. But it’s more on the other side, that the businesses are more supportive than the charities,” she said.

“I think sitting back and analyzing this over the last few years it probably shouldn’t have been as big a surprise as it has been to us, because they’re really busy people, they’re underfunded and under-resourced, just like ourselves, and they don’t have time to read our emails or answer our phone calls because they’re so busy surviving, they’re busy in the trenches doing what they need to do to support the communities that they’re in.”

She said one of the challenges for Good360 was to rise above the noise.

“I suppose one of the things we’ve struggled with is we’ve been underfunded and under-resourced, like all charities, so our ability to push out to the charities and let them know we exist is still very limited,” she said.

“So we’ve got a lot of work to do to let charities know we’re here to help. We’re working with just over 500 charities and you know there’s 50,000 in Australia. So we still have to tell them we’re here to help.

“But how do we get it above the clutter and all the other noise they’ve got going on?… What do we do to be a bigger, shinier light than all the other things?”

Covington said there was also a sort of scepticism from charities who were looking for the catch.

“I’m not exactly sure we have our model 100 per cent right either because we do have a small shipping and handling fee that is a barrier for some of the charities, so there is a catch because as a charity ourselves we have to be funded, we do need to charge a fee and so for some charities that is the catch that they’re looking for,” she said.

“At Christmas time we have waived that fee so they don’t have to pay that. And of course it is much easier because there is no fee.

“But I do see that there needs to be some little contribution to the model because our donors are saying look we need to make sure that when they do draw on the model, they’re only taking reasonable usage of the amount of goods. So that’s what we’re looking at over the next couple of years is what is the right sort of balance if people want to draw on the goods, they contribute a reasonable usage based on their ability to pay but not more than their ability to pay.

“Our goal is to get products into the hands of Australians who need them most and we don’t want any charities who are helping those Australians to not be able to participate.”

In 2016, Good360 fundraised $100,000 to run a Christmas campaign which offered all member charities Australia wide free shipping and handling.

As a result, $2.3 million worth of goods were distributed to Australians during the month of November.

In 2017, Good360 hope to grow their impact to deliver more than $5 million worth of goods during the 2017 Christmas Campaign, which is being run in partnership with national retailer BIG W and Pro Bono Australia.

“Being very ambitious, rather than having modest growth of 10 per cent or something like that, we thought let’s go for double. Let’s just go gangbusters. Let’s go for $5 million,” Covington said.

“We’ve got plenty of goods in the warehouse, there’s no point it sitting with us, we’ve got to get into the hands of the people who need it most.

“So we went out to our corporate partners and said that we need you to help fund our ability to do that. And we were very lucky to be able to partner with Big W on this campaign and some other corporate partners to do that.”

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