Every year, the philanthropic ethos which is deeply entrenched in our company foundation for giving back to others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, presents an opportunity to provide a website – along with some useful hand-holding through the early months following deployment. The recipient uses the website not only as a means of communication, but as a vehicle to collect donations and to help promote the charity’s message.
Spode Media is committed to supporting local charities and every year we choose to support one charity, chosen by our four partners, as being outstanding and most deserving as a result of their extraordinary effort in helping others.
The economy has been slow for the past five years following a lengthy recession, and The Wish Project has been there to help those who have fared the worst. We never forget that the best way to be thankful for our situation is to pay it forward. This year we are delighted to offer our help and expertise to The Wish Project.
About The Wish Project
In 2000 the founder Donna Hunnewell quit work as a corporate trainer for FLIR Systems to get married and had two children. In her free time throughout the two pregnancies she volunteered with multiple social services agencies and was inspired by how often they went out of their way to buy diapers for a baby in need.
Of course furniture for families moving out of shelter was the biggest need in the city and it had the largest impact because with support most of these families were out of the system for good. In the early years Donna utilized Hotmail and her cell phone to rally friends in order to donate goods for her to deliver in her minivan. But a larger solution was needed. After a short stint at a local food bank, she had an inspiration; Food Banks solved the regional need for food 1970’s but there seemed to be no solution to a one agency making it their mission to supply furniture, home, baby goods and clothing to the region.
Unlike food, so many people were looking to donate these things. It only made sense to use a similar model of a Goods Bank for goods. Donna assembled a board of directors to obtain a 501c3 and rental space in 2005. Furniture wishes remained the most difficult to fulfill and they required a large space to stage. In 2006 The Wish Project moved into part of a very large warehouse and in 2007 finally raised enough money to move into the final and present 13,000 sq ft warehouse space.
A Constituency Served and how they are helped
The Wish Project’s service area spans the Merrimack Valley with most of their clients coming from Greater Lowell and the majority of the clients helped have suffered a one-time life-altering event such as fire, flood, spousal assault, illness in the family or other financial reversal. More than 85% of the clients served are women and children; nearly one-third of them were displaced due to domestic violence. The Wish Project helps many clients from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and beyond. We help the elderly, mentally and physically ill, thousands of babies, homeless families and singles. All that is required is that they are working with an agency to get all the help they need and not just seeking goods. The Wish Project has a wonderful online referral system that was built by a volunteer two years ago. It dramatically reduces the paperwork and wait time between referral and assistance. Once a final wish is approved electronically, the social worker is sent an email with the packet to print out and either bring to our warehouse or send to the client so they can come and pick up the approved goods.
Staff and Governance
Wish brought on paid staff in 2007 and now has 8 part time employees and 1 full time employee. Payroll is about 50% of their budget. About 1,200 volunteers each year work more than 10,000 volunteer hours. Volunteers are a precious resource and the secret to their success. The Wish Project has an active and thriving board of 12 members including a new fundraising chairman, an HR chair, legal counsel and 2 CPAs. They also have a paid CPA on staff as our book keeper. Each year they are audited by an independent outside accounting firm. The board meets 12 times a year with a strategic planning meeting in January.
How The Wish Project accomplishes their goals: Funding
Since the beginning, the organization has moved from 70% grant funded to 80% self reliant. In 2011 The Wish Project developed a Zero Waste initiative. Recycling opened new revenue streams through recycled electronics, clothing and other goods that their clients do not need. The three largest sources of revenue are private donations, agency fees and active fundraising.
Plans for the future:
In the short term the organization is seeking more space. Longer term the goal is to own their own building. The ultimate goal is to have a Goods Bank in every major city but for now ending homelessness one family at a time in MA keeps the project busy.