Habitat for Humanity Restore Locations in Oregon Expand with Online Booking
- September 18, 2018
- By: Vonigo
What started with humble beginnings is now a four-location Habitat for Humanity ReStore operation with centralized booking that continues to show growth. Here’s how they do it.
Steady Growth Since the Beginning
“We started as a fairly small operation under a bridge,” says Malia Tam Sing, Donation Pickup Program Manager of Habitat for Humanity Restore Locations in Oregon. “We have since moved to the current Portland store and have grown as the need for a place for donating building materials has grown.”
After getting their start in 2001, they opened their second location in 2009 in Vancouver, Washington, and their third in Beaverton in 2011. Last year, after moving to centralized booking, they opened a fourth store in Gresham, Oregon and with the help of online booking, started setting donation and sales records.
With four stores under one centralized operation, they generate enough profit to build eight Habitat for Humanity homes per year.
Centralized Booking to Help With Expansion
After they opened their third location, Malia noticed that the operation wasn’t as efficient as it could be. “The three locations, they each had their own truck,” says Malia. “Each one was operating separately to schedule pickups and it was really inefficient.”
She made the decision to use a centralized booking system. After reviewing several vendors, the team chose Vonigo. “In March of 2015, I decided it would be a good idea to centralize our pickups program,” says Malia. “The whole program became housed under one roof instead of each location. Before, we were using Google Calendar or a spreadsheet.”
Easier Administration and Better Customer Service
The change was felt immediately, both internally and by donors. “We wanted to give better customer service to our donors,” says Malia. “We also wanted to use the pickup resources more efficiently because trucks are expensive to operate.”
“Vonigo definitely makes it easier to communicate what we want and what we don’t want,” says Malia. “Photos make a big difference — It makes it easier to field the stuff that’s coming through.”
How Online Booking for Habitat for Humanity Restore Locations Works
The online booking system saves time and costs in a number of ways. “When a donor has some items they want to donate, they visit our website, which explains how our specific pickup system works,” says Malia. “We ask that items are placed in the garage or driveway, and we ask that photos be submitted for any furniture or cabinetry, which are the hardest items to resell if they are in bad condition.”
“Through Vonigo, they can communicate all of those things to us. And once the photos are uploaded we review each work order that comes through — if they don’t send photos we can request them with the email templates.
“If the items don’t meet our guidelines, we can cancel the pickup, which makes us look more professional and saves a lot of time. When they do, we can send an email saying ‘thank you for giving us the information’ and we will schedule the pickup.” The items are then sold in the retail locations, and the profits go towards building homes for needy families in the communities.
“We are definitely giving better, more consistent customer service,” says Malia. “It lessens my workload, not having to type the same response over and over again.
“Tracking what people are giving us is easier, as is tracking of repeat donors. The data that we get from it is very valuable. And we can generate… a trillion reports,” she jokes. (In fact, they can generate 52 different reports).
“Customer satisfaction has gone way up. Because of how we use Vonigo to field items, the quality of the items that we bring back to the store has gone up too.”
A Record Number of Donations
“We had a record month in May,” says Malia, who says that in the three years since they started using Vonigo, their monthly donations have increased by over 80%. “When we first rolled out the program, in June of 2015, we had a total of 200 pickups. This last June (2018) we had 362 pickups.”
She adds that online booking saves time, but also encourages people to donate. “Part of our marketing process is our online booking system. It’s easier for people now.”
Their Favorite Features
“A big part of my job is communicating with people about pickups, and how our system works,” says Malia. “The email templates are huge. We went through 60 emails this morning— it took 2.5 hours. Without Vonigo, it could take a full day.”
A Future of Growth
“We are going to hire more drivers, add more trucks, more routes, and hopefully even more awareness about what we do,” says Malia, saying that she especially wants to make people more aware of “the green aspect of what we do, and who we’re helping.” They also plan to reach out to more businesses to communicate about how their donations program works, and the benefits to the community.
“Something that I hear often is that customers appreciate that they are keeping their items out of the landfill while supporting Habitat buildings for people in their communities,” says Malia. “It’s something that everybody can feel good about.”
If you have building materials that you’d like to donate in Portland, Washington County, Clark County or Gresham, Oregon, visit the PDX Restore site and book a pickup.
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