United Way of Northeast Louisiana (UWNELA) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) agency, founded in 1956 that works with volunteers, donors, and other local organizations to fight for the education, financial stability, and health of every person in its community. The organization’s mission is focused on helping people and improving their community, and their values are inclusiveness, compassion, integrity, respect, dignity, and positive impact.
Together, their work is focused on three community aspirations:
- Children, youth, and young adults are successful in school and life
- Economic opportunity for all
- Healthy and safe individuals, families, and community
All United Ways are locally run and governed in each community. The UWNELA staff works with knowledgeable, well-trained volunteers representative of their community in Northeast Louisiana. They serve nearly 345,000 residents across the 12 parishes, which are Caldwell, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union, and West Carroll.
UWNELA conducts several fundraising initiatives throughout the year, which include both cash and in-kind product donations. For example, prior to school starting in the fall, they will request donations for children’s school supplies; at Christmas, they will gather gifts for children who otherwise would not receive any; and in February, they will request specific donations to support organizations conducting drives for books, blankets, and hygiene products.
Additionally, the state of Louisiana is susceptible to several types of natural disasters, the most common being flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Because of this, UWNELA must always be prepared with supplies for disaster recovery efforts.
The organization serves 12 parishes (known as counties in other U.S. states) with just two physical office locations. For specific product drives, the organization would advertise their wish lists, and then donors would travel to stores, purchase the goods, box up the goods, and then drive to another location to ship the goods to one of the two UWNELA offices. Unfortunately, not always were the names and addresses of the donors included when the goods arrived, so the UWNELA staff had to rely on face-to-face interaction to collect donor data. Additionally, it was difficult for donors to travel from across the 12 parishes to reach those two locations to drop off physical goods if they preferred to donate in person.
UWNELA needed an alternative solution like the common online purchasing people are used to that gave users the ability to donate goods easily and more conveniently, by selecting, paying for, and having the goods shipped from mobile devices, laptops, or desk computers. Providing an online donation solution would allow UWNELA to reach even more supporters.
The timing was perfect. OneEach is their website provider and we were in the process of launching a new online in-kind product donation platform and looking for some customers willing to pilot the new platform.
The Solution Partner
OneEach has been providing digital services to businesses and nonprofits since 1999. Our team of professionals has over 100 years of combined experience working with and for nonprofits across the United States. We specialize in website design/development, hosting, text messaging, and fundraising solutions and currently serve and support over 750 nonprofits across the globe.
We became an Amazon Business integration partner in June of 2021 in order to provide an innovative in-kind donation fundraising solution that integrates with the Amazon Business store to our nonprofit customers.
We've been the vendor partner of UWNELA since 2014. In 2022, our account manager approached Meghan Jones, Director of Marketing & Communications, to see if the organization might be interested in piloting our new integration offering with Amazon Business that enables in-kind product donation - OneEach Mindful Giving - for the upcoming Back-to-School Drive.
The Solution? Mindful Giving
Since Mindful Giving was still in development, we worked closely with UWNELA to set up the solution for what UWNELA needed, created the processes, built the web page, created the product catalog, and tested the system together. Overall, the process took about three months to launch its first pilot.
The process of launching Mindful Giving includes:
- Set up an Amazon Business Account
- Create a products catalog leveraging the wide selection from Amazon Business
- Draft content, product descriptions, and quantities of products needed for the catalog page
- OneEach builds the Mindful Giving web page
To market its campaigns and communicate needs to potential donors, UWNELA creates a promotion page on its website that’s specific to each donation drive that they are conducting. The Call-To-Action button from that page points to the Mindful Giving product catalog where donors can select and pay for the items they want to donate. They also have the option to donate cash from Mindful Giving. Then Amazon Business ships those products to the address UWNELA selects for each campaign.
According to Ms. Jones, “The whole process is really easy for our staff and donors. Mindful Giving is clean and simple. We are able to have all the information we want to share in one location on our website.”
Since that initial pilot, UWNELA launched another product drive and was able to pivot to a new campaign within a couple of business days to get the new catalog up and the campaign launched. “You know, that was such a nice experience, and we are looking forward to future Mindful Giving updates that allow us to run simultaneous campaigns,” said Ms. Jones. “For example, our Back-to-School drive happens to be at the tail end of hurricane season, so we’re working with the OneEach team to be able to very quickly mobilize a second campaign specific for disaster recovery without shutting down any existing campaigns.”
In the past, what used to be a time-consuming process for donors to search for the organization’s wish list, visit stores to find items, contact the offices to arrange donations—and deliver—can now be set up in as little as a few hours to one day depending on how many products are added to the catalog, allowing donors to get supplies to UWNELA quickly, and without incurring shipping costs.
The UWNELA Christmas campaign, which ran for 16 days, brought in 19 total in-kind donations and two cash donations. 104 needed products were received at a total donation amount of $3,040. In fact, on the second day of the campaign, one donor gave $1,242 worth of in-kind donations, which covered the annual cost of Mindful Giving - what a great ROI!
The excitement over Mindful Giving has been encouraging from the Board, staff, and donors. The Board has been excited about the ability to engage residents in the rural and outlying parishes and the opportunities to expand UWNELA’s reach to potential supporters. According to Ms. Jones, “That’s very important to our Board and leadership. It’s always a win whenever we can engage more people across our 12-parish community. It’s been very exciting for us.”
From the staff’s perspective, they’ve found Mindful Giving easy to use and the ability to move from one campaign to another on a moment’s notice is “huge.” They’ve also appreciated the ability to capture more metrics and contact information for their donors. This allows them to thank their donors in a timely fashion, provide personalized receipts for tax deductions, and follow up in the future.
“What I’ve really appreciated is the ability to streamline our campaigns, change our collection locations for deliveries based on where volunteers are gathering, and many other nuances for each drive,” said Ms. Jones. “In fact, for our Christmas campaign, we had donations delivered to a local church where our volunteers wrapped presents for children. None of our campaigns are the same, so Mindful Giving allows us to be flexible, save time by streamlining our processes, and accommodate our needs.”
The feedback UWNELA has received from donors is that they like the ease and convenience of in-kind giving now. They have had several donors who have thanked them for enabling an online giving platform. “I think a lot of people in this online shopping era that we live in appreciate that option,” shared Ms. Jones. “Having your philanthropic giving at the tip of your fingers, and the ability to choose how you want to give back to your community is that next obvious step that makes sense in this age in which we live.”
OneEach’s integration with Amazon Business to provide Mindful Giving has been a game-changer for nonprofits that are including in-kind donations in their fundraising strategies. Initial installation of Mindful Giving can be set up in about three weeks once Stripe and Amazon Business accounts have been set up by the customer. Learn more about OneEach Mindful Giving.