Bin Donated: Redefining the Charity Model Through a Triple Bottom Line Approach

Have you wondered what happens to the miniature, half-used shampoo bottles after your hotel stay? Do you have a better use for stationary at the end of the school year other than recycling or trashing? Millions of tons of useful items are sent to landfills every year while there are needy citizens with no access to them. What if the wasted but useful inventory was connected to charities helping these communities? No-brainer right? Right. Bin Donated is putting this common sense idea into practice.

Bin Donated is a Chicago based non-profit that is helping other area non-profits save money and resources by directing donations collected through a “bin”, and diverting perfectly good items from landfills to those communities that need them.

How Bin Donated Works?

The organization places repurposed 55-gallon cobalt blue bins, in various partner locations throughout Chicago to collect everyday items. They focus on strategic donations- items that are actually needed. So a homeless shelter doesn’t receive 282 pounds of pet supplies or a food bank isn’t staring at 1500 pounds of school supplies!

Each drive focuses on a single category item. For example, they collect remnant hygiene products and room amenities through hotels or oral hygiene products through dental offices. Through residential building drives they target seasonal items. For example, school supplies in the summer and winter coats and holiday toys at the end of the year.

They partner with companies that host or sponsor a drive and collect items from employees or customers. Several banks and companies have hosted drives at multiple locations with Bin Donated handling drives from 10 to even 120 locations! Bin Donated directs donations to relevant organizations that help tens of thousands in homeless communities, women and children programs, education programs and animal shelters.

Ecopreneurist spoke to Geeta Singh, Executive Director, at Bin Donated and she explained how communities, companies and the environment could all benefit from Bin Donated.

1. How is Bin Donated changing the way companies and individuals donate to charity?

Bin Donated is all about impact or “bin pact”- as we like to call it! We have created a model that utilizes collaboration with strategic partners to achieve economics of scale. Bin Donated is making donating (non-monetary) to charities efficient. We go to the donors, collect the necessary items and deliver to nonprofits in need. Our nonprofit partners are not charged for the donations, collections or distributions as our mission centers on saving them money for their programs. We help nonprofits save time, resources and expenses that would have been otherwise incurred for these essential items. There is no wastage as we strategically match donations to the partners. All the while, we are mindful of the environment, as over 90% of the items collected and “reused” by non-profits and their beneficiaries are diverted from landfills.

In essence, we are encouraging a re-think of how to help underserved communities without exhausting the environment.

2. How hard is it to convince people and businesses to participate?

Well, it’s not very difficult once they understand what we do and the value proposition it offers. People are inherently good and want to help others in need, but lack efficient and systematic ways to do this. So, our system encourages collaboration with  hotels, companies and  residential buildings, by which we are able to leverage efficiency and scale and make a difference with sizable donations.   

And it actually makes solid business sense. Through donation drives, businesses can engage employees, give away items headed for the landfill, support non-profits and most importantly reinvest in local underprivileged communities. Additionally, we have businesses sitting on excess assets and inventory reach out to us. We get items from excess supply, manufacturing overruns or with minor defects, essentially inventory slated for liquidators or the dumpster. One company does annual sale of their closeout bath and body products. For the last two years they have donated over 10,000 lbs to us to distribute to our non-profit partners.  Last year we distributed to over 30 organizations, this year will be closer to 50.  Bin Donated offers a turnkey solution to take those assets and distribute to numerous non-profits.

3. But what if a company doesn’t have any assets to give or doesn’t have a large employee base/locations?  How do you engage them?

That happens, not every company fits the profile or want to host drives, however they can still make an impact.  We offer companies the opportunity to sponsor and support our large residential building drives. With prominent signage and logo placement, Companies now have a unique and cost effective opportunity to execute a powerful cause marketing campaign.  For many, our high-rise residential building partners represent their ideal customer target market. Collectively, when these benefits and the win-win-win scenarios are highlighted the companies sign up.  We are working to reach them and make them aware of us, of-course!

4. This is fantastic model that is working very well in Chicago. What are your expansion goals for Chicago and the nation?

Bin Donated is less than 3yrs old. There is a ton (literally) to do in Chicago, we have just scratched the surface. There are hundreds of hotels, companies and residential buildings in the city and strategic areas outside of the city that we have yet to tap. However, we need resources – the usual – trucks, drivers, funding etc.  The great thing about our model is that little funding goes a long way.  In a little over 2 years we were able to collect and distribute about 100,000 lbs to area non-profits. With the right resources in place, we will look to strategically expand into select cities that can really benefit from our collaborative model- we bring together two parties, those that represent the supply side, the donation partners and those that have a demand for the items, the non-profits.     

Bin Donated’s unique model has not gone unnoticed. In a short time, they have been written and featured in magazines and on local TV channels.  Interestingly, they will be one of the organizations featured in the upcoming Chicago episode of ABC’s Secret Millionaire series. The show will air on Sunday July 1st, 2012 at 8pm (EST). To learn more about Bin Donated, go to www.bindonated.org or contact Geeta(at)bindonated(dot)org

Update: In case you missed it, Bin Donated was featured on the July 1st episode of ABC’s Secret Millionaire.  To watch the episode online, please go to http://abc.go.com/watch/secret-millionaire/SH5580166/VD55214625/steve-kaplan-chicago-il .

About the Author

Hi there! I am Priti and I specialize in strategy and communications for impact organizations that aim to create social, environmental and economic wealth for all stakeholders. Working from the ground up, I help these do-gooders craft effective programs for community engagement, outreach and profitability. Follow my work covering do-gooders, cleanweb, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses on Ecopreneurist and at Crowdsourcing Week. I enjoy traveling with my boys, cooking up a gourmet meal from scratch and entertaining! Join my community for Social Entrepreneurs on G+ Follow me on Twitter, on LinkedIn and Google+