Securing High Value Donations: Tips from the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore

This article was contributed by Jeff Bridgman from Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has two stores, one in Asheville, NC and one in Weaverville, NC.

Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity has operated a ReStore for over 30 years. During that time, the store has grown from a tiny “Home Store” to one large warehouse-type store containing 27,000 sq. feet of retail space and a second smaller store that has over 10,000 sq. feet. The affiliate is fortunate to be in a community that values giving and helping each other. To that end, high value donations have played a significant role in the success of the Asheville Habitat ReStore over the years.

An important key to securing high value donations is having a dedicated staff person focused solely on procurement. This person follows up on inquiries that the ReStore receives, as well as proactively goes out into the community to create connections and partnerships with businesses and individual donors. These relationships are important to developing a steady source of high value donations.

A specific example is the relationship that the affiliate has had with two local hotel properties throughout the years. Both relationships started small with donations of merchandise that were not so great. However, it was in these early days that trust, communication and understanding developed on both sides of the partnership. This led to an increase in the value of donations to the point that the Asheville ReStore would receive the entirety of hotel furniture and related items each time the hotels refurbished and remodeled.

This equated to large amounts of revenue for the ReStore. One of the aforementioned hotels is a high-end resort property, and when word spread through the customer base that the store received items from this resort, customers would be standing in line before the ReStore opened to have the opportunity to purchase these quality goods!

Always be selling the attributes of your affiliate and your store even when you are not “at work”. The Asheville ReStore received a brand new security camera system for its store a few years ago simply on a chance meeting between a staff member and a person with connections to a local security camera company at a restaurant where they were both having a beer and dinner. Follow up emails and phone calls from that initial meeting and conversation led to each entity learning more about the other and eventually led to a gift in-kind donation of a camera system that is still in use today. The affiliate would not have been able to afford the camera system outright.

Creating a Business Partner program to recognize the special relationship that high value donors have with the ReStores is important, too. The Asheville affiliate recognizes high value donors in a number of ways including publicizing partnerships on social media, linking the donor’s website to our own, displaying the company’s logo prominently in the stores and on the donation trucks, and mentioning the companies’ contributions in the affiliate’s annual report and in an annual print ad in the local independent paper.

Teamwork is important at the store level to maximize the value of these donations. The Donation or Procurement Manager must communicate well with the Store Manager and staff so that everyone is aware of the high value donations. This communication creates logistical, financial, and educational knowledge of the donated items that in turn boosts sales and donor recognition. A high value donation is only as good as the store’s ability to pick-up, handle, market, and sell the items.

Communication, developing relationships, and a dedicated person focusing solely on donations of all types are the key ingredients to obtaining high value donations on a consistent basis.