Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, Christian ministry founded on the mission that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live.Nearly 2 billion people around the world live in substandard housing and over 100 million are homeless. Habitat is trying to redress this problem, one home at a time (Habitat World 1, 2012). Habitat for Humanity comprises many branches across the United States. Each branch serves a particular region of the state in which it is located. The ReStore is a furniture and building supply store that sells new as well as used building materials to the general public (TheGuardian,2005). The ReStore acquires all the materials and furniture it sells through donation and then makes them available to customers at a discounted price. The revenues from ReStore are used to build homes for needy families (Reeger 1,2013).According to Tim Firment, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Metro West and our project sponsor, ReStore is the building block in portraying the message of Habitat of Humanity Metro West consistently to the general public. He hopes that with ReStore’s continued growth more homes will be built for those in need and everyone who deserves a home will have one. Therefore, marketing for a non-profit such as Habitat for Humanity is essential (Habitat Report 11, 2012).
The Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/ Greater Worcester ReStore facility opened in 2011 and is still developing its marketing and outreach program for the Worcester area. The goal of our Interactive Qualifying Project was to assist the staff in creating a more effective marketing strategy. In order to provide a suitable marketing and advertising scheme, our team first needed to know what the current methods of the ReStore were and search for areas in need of improvement. We identified current marketing methods by interviewing Tim Firment and other Habitat employees involved in the development of marketing material. Through these interviews we gained a more in-depth understanding of what methods were being used and which could be strengthened. We also interviewed and surveyed donors and customers to find out how they learned about ReStore and how often they contribute.
We began our communications with Worcester area colleges and universities by finding which institutions were already affiliated with Habitat for Humanity Metro West’s ReStore program either by Habitat groups or by volunteering programs. ReStore had kept a contact binder, which contained all this information and last date of contact for each college and university. After using both the contact binder and online research, we emailed multiple local college and university’s facilities managers, who are in charge of removing excess furniture and supplies from the university. We met with facility managers from Holy Cross College, Clark University, and WPI, described the ReStore program, and explained our ideas for a “Welcome Back” and “Spring Cleaning” campaign to promote sustainability and create an additional resource for ReStore. The “Spring Cleaning” campaign allowed the college or university to set up a schedule at the end of the year for students and faculty to donate any unused furniture or appliances to the ReStore before they moved out for the summer. The “Welcome Back” campaign would allow students and faculty at the beginning of the fall semester to buy items from the ReStore at a discounted price in order promote ReStore as a valuable resource to students and faculty. These events would also raise the profile of ReStore in the local community as the students and faculty would relay this information about the discounts and ReStore’s mission to their family and friends.
An important and vital part of every successful business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is a tracking system that allows management of monetary and in-kind donations, donors, sales and outreach efforts. Shortly after our project began we learned that the organization had recently begun to utilize an inventory tracking system called “Giftworks.” The ReStore has numerous hard-copy donation receipts that were not well-organized. After customizing “Giftworks”to better meet the needs of the Restore staff, we populated the data base with existing donor and customer information and explored how the software could be used to in the future to track donors, send reminders, and conduct temporal and spatial analysis of sales and donations.
Many of HFH’s ReStore marketing materials could easily be improved. Many of their pamphlets and brochures have the wrong information on them and do not correspond to the actual days or hours that ReStore is open or even the correct telephone number.
In our process of setting up relationships with businesses, colleges, and universities we found that the Worcester ReStore would benefit from improved communication with other ReStore’s. Although the Worcester ReStore attends monthly meetings with other ReStore managers, most of the meeting time is spent discussing the profitability of each ReStore with little emphasis on how each individual ReStore could improve its operations and how they could collectively learn from what each facility is doing presently. We also discovered that there is a lack of awareness in the community about the existence and purpose of ReStore. For example, although regularly participates in “Woo Card” events, which are events sponsored “Woo Card” that are held on local college campuses that promote organizations that allow the use of a “Woo Card” for discounts off purchases, the businesses that set up tables next to ReStore had little idea what the ReStore program was until we told them. Surprisingly, several of the facility managers we interviewed at local colleges were also unaware of the ReStore program.
We met with facility managers or sustainability coordinators at area colleges, including, John Cannon of Holy Cross College, Jennifer Isler of Clark University, Steven Bandarra of Worcester State University, and Elizabeth Tomaszewski of WPI, in order to explore how ReStore might a closer relationship with them, and gamer their support for and involvement in the ReStore’s first annual “Spring Cleaning” events. For a variety of reasons neither Clark University nor the Holy Cross College were interested in participating in our “Spring Cleaning” event. However, Elizabeth Tomaszewski, Facility Systems Manager for Worcester Polytechnic Institute was delighted to formalize the connection between WPI and the ReStore and participate in the first “Spring Cleaning” event.
While organizing this event, we realized it was important for ReStore to improve their methods of keeping, attracting, and organizing donors as well. Through our work we learned that ReStore does not send” thank you” cards, letters or emails to donors on a consistent basis. ReStore recently invested in a program called “Giftworks”, which takes donor information and documents it for tracking and organizational purposes. “Giftworks” allows ReStore to email blast any selection of people regarding news about upcoming events, and sales information.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In a nutshell, Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/ Greater Worcester and its ReStore have been successful since opening in 2011, but still have a lot of potential for growth. Some recommendations are: (1)Re-work the marketing materials to ensure that each pamphlet ,brochure, and event flyers accurately reflect the ReStore’s general information; (2) Keep the sign on Gold Star Boulevard up to date with news on upcoming events and sales; (3) Improve contact with other ReStore’s and consistently reach out to businesses, universities, and colleges; (4) Send out “thank you” letters or emails to the more generous; (5) Continue holding “Spring Fling” events in partnership with local area institutions;(6) Continue to update “Giftworks” based on the donor data sheets and the Customer and Donor Questionnaires to monitor how donors and customers learn about ReStore and to track donor and customer opinions of ReStore operations. Implementing these marketing strategies and recommendations will help Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/ Greater Worcester raise awareness in the community about the Restore program and should assure its continued success.