As always, giving back to our community is one of FitJoy's core pillars. This month, FitJoy is partnering with COCObundle and their Austin partner LifeWorks in an August campaign to help provide Stability for Students. In pursuit of LifeWork's ongoing goal to end youth homelessness in Austin by 2020, we're furnishing apartments for young people, and you can be a part of it from right where you are.
COCObundle makes it easy. In fact, "COCO" is short for "conveniently contribute." They partner with different non-profits to assess the material needs of the people they serve. They then meticulously source and efficiently compile these items into "bundles" to deliver. This way, the nonprofits don't end up digging through whole rooms full of say, half-used shampoos, and don't receive a superfluity of one item but zero of another essential. Online, you can contribute swiftly to these bundles, just as you might with a wedding registry.
We asked COCObundle founder Kelly LaPlante to elaborate on how COCObundle has improved the way we give, and how our FitJoy fam can jump on board right now and help our students get the stability they need to succeed.
FJ: How was COCObundle born?
Kelly: I was volunteering for a local nonprofit that helps move people experiencing homelessness into stable housing. There were boxes of in-kind donations scattered throughout the offices. When I asked, they explained that they didn't have the bandwidth to sort, organize and store the things that came in from donors. Often, a case manager would just quickly peruse the boxes, see if there was anything usable, and pull together whatever they could for a client. There was always too much of some things and not enough of others—and the quality was really inconsistent.
I started getting curious and discovered that these issues are really common in nonprofit organizations (except for places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, whose business models are set up to handle in-kind donation logistics). I wondered if generosity from donors could be redirected and streamlined so that organizations could receive what they really needed for their clients in an organized way that made life easier for busy case managers.
My co-founders and I built a platform for nonprofits that is something like a hybrid between a wedding registry and a crowdfunding campaign. We tested it with a few campaigns and were delighted to find that the answer was yes—contributors are really happy to give in this way and nonprofits are thrilled to receive exactly what they need, when they need it!
FJ: Speaking of what they need, how does curation work? How do you decide what to add to the bundles (not only the items but also the quality)?
Kelly: My background is in sustainable design, so I'm really aware of product lifecycle and how quickly many consumer products end up in landfill. I was also aware of the fact that our end user is not necessarily going to be in a financial position to replace anything that becomes unusable, so it was really important for us to source products that are made to last.
Our bundles are home essentials—all the little things we take for granted and rarely think about, like dishes, bedding, and towels—and our manufacturers supply the hotel and restaurant industry, where durability and longevity are key! By sourcing this way, we know we're providing items that will stand the test of time.
FJ: What's the real-life impact you've seen from some of these initiatives?
Kelly: We hear lots of stories from case managers about how much of a difference the bundles make in their clients' lives. They tend to hear a lot of "I can't believe this is for me!" and oftentimes there are tears of joy and gratitude. One young mother said that the bundle meant she didn't have to choose between buying essentials for her home and essentials for her baby.
The moment a case manager gives their client a bundle is a rare opportunity for the two of them. For once, it isn't about working through the system or filling out forms, it's just a beautiful human moment. The bundle turns out to be just as meaningful for the case manager as it is for the beneficiary—that was an unanticipated impact, and it means a lot to me.
FJ: Can you tell us more about this month's initiative, Stability for Students?
Kelly: My team and I were inspired by all of the organizations who do backpack and school supply drives to make sure that students have what they need to learn. We started thinking about the home environment and about our own children—what it means to get a good night's sleep and to have a healthy breakfast each morning—and put this initiative together with the help of FitJoy!
Not only is FitJoy providing bundles for one of the local organizations (LifeWorks) here in Austin, they are also contributing nutritious bars to all four of the organizations who are a part of this campaign. That will help tremendously with the healthy breakfast part of the equation!
FJ: We're so excited to be a part of it! Is there anything else you want FitJoy customers to know?
Kelly: I always feel it is worth repeating that when you purchase a COCObundle, you're also purchasing support for these organizations. Hundreds of hours of work are taken off the plate of busy case managers by streamlining the purchasing, storage, packaging, and logistics for them—and we do this is at no cost to the organization! We owe a lot of gratitude to our contributors for making this possible.
Readers can totally help. It's easier than ever to contribute and know that you're helping relieve homelessness and need in American communities. With COCObundle, you know and see exactly what you're contributing, and you know that every cent of your money is being put to efficient and effective use.
To join FitJoy in giving to COCObundle's August campaign, head here and see how simple it is!