You Can’t Sell From an Empty Wagon (Part 2 of 2)

With the four components – volume, quality, diversity and delivery – of your donation stream identified, let’s look at how we can proactively address potential problems and keep our wagons full.


The first consideration related to all four components is location. If you’re locked into an existing location, the first option is to locate a donation center in a high capacity area. These operations are not cheap but if quantity and quality of inventory is lacking, this option may be the best solution.

Minimizing Trash

If excessive amounts of trash are being donated, then training the team members how to gently decline items must be considered. A word of warning here: If this activity is not done in a professional way, the outcome may be more detrimental than the problem. Be that as it may, training the donors to respect the organization enough not to become their personal dump is very important.

Engaging Donors

Donor management is another key element in improving the donation stream. This entails everything from how the donor and donation is treated down to feedback and proper acknowledgement for the donation. There is much to be considered in this area but having a detailed strategy for donor management will produce much fruit in increasing the harvest of quality donations.

Plenty of donations ≠ A full wagon

So, what if the back room is piled high and donations are still rolling in? The obvious question is, “Why?”

If there is not enough trained staff to process fast enough, then consider the lost opportunity cost in the pile of donations. If the excess has value, the investment in labor will be a small percentage relative to the increase in sales.

If the shelves are full, then identify when the shelves last purged of dated goods.  After 6 weeks, your stale merchandise is simply taking up space that could otherwise be allocated to newer (and better) product.

These two typical responses are primary contributors to lost revenue associated with excess inventory. If one looks at pre-sorting, processing and merchandising as if it were a manufacturing model, then maximum throughput is the objective. Every potential choke point is then scrutinized and systems are put in place to evaluate for maximum performance.

So, fill the wagon with enough fresh, high-quality items and the sales will follow.

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