Investing in social impact: How corporate partnerships propel Furniture Bank’s financial sustainability

Explore the transformative impact of Furniture Bank's corporate partnerships, shaping homes and changing lives. Join us in fostering positive change through strategic collaborations and corporate social responsibility - like Furniture Bank with IKEA.

Let’s uncover the truth about how social enterprises, such as Furniture Bank, operate. Contrary to misconceptions, we’re not conventional businesses. Our services aren’t free, and we’re not solely run by volunteers. Explore our unique model and the vital role of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate partnerships in our mission.

Furniture donations are a crucial component: When you donate furniture to us, it’s not just about passing on items but providing an opportunity to redistribute them to our clients. Notably, none of the usable furniture donated to us is sold. It’s carefully repaired if needed, and given a new home, creating immeasurable value in the lives of those who receive it. Because we do not sell donated furniture, we must fund our operations differently. 

There is a lot of confusion out there on how charities like Furniture Bank in Toronto manage their finances. This confusion leads to many people arguing that everything that we do should be free. This applies to services that people normally pay for like removal of unwanted home goods, reverse logistics, special events, and deliveries. 

Non-profits like us employ business strategies to generate the income required for our activities, but we aren’t profit-driven businesses in the traditional sense. And we don’t run solely on volunteers or provide services for free. We are a blend of business acumen and humanitarian purpose, using our resources to create value for the community. 

Are you wondering then, how Furniture Bank manages financial aspects such as monthly rent, fleet expenses, employee salaries, and essential technology costs? Rarely does the funding come from cash donations, with less than one percent of donation slips representing such contributions. Let’s demystify where the essential monetary resources come from and how they are used. 

From residential services to corporate partnerships, we’re making an impact

Our operation model: We provide extremely essential services, residential removal services, corporate services to businesses, corporate volunteering events, corporate partnerships, along special government-related services. These services are a crucial part of how our organization sustains itself. Without these vital operations, we couldn’t run our delivery trucks, couldn’t hire staff, many of whom are former clients, or manage our warehouse and showroom. 

It’s essential to note that we strive to maximize the use of funds from our social enterprises, corporate partnerships, and individual donations. Every penny is channelled into providing our clients with the best possible home goods. Profit is far from our mind; our goal is to support as many individuals as possible in furnishing their homes.  

January through September financial breakdown

Let’s look at a real example of our finances for the year to date September 30, 2023: 

Description 

Amount  

Revenue from Social Enterprise 

$3,213,418

Cost of goods bought and sent to Clients 

$153,319 

Cost of goods bought and not yet shipped  

$105,394 

Salaries 

$2,021,204 

Transport 

$364,878 

Warehouse including rent 

$405,657 

General Admin 

$127,128 

IT  

$106,251 

Marketing & Design 

$33,413 

Business Development and Partner Support 

$121,337 

Unfunded Operations  

-$81,443 

At Furniture Bank, we understand the vital role a robust fundraising strategy plays in our operations. This strategy not only helps us meet essential costs but also allows us to expand our services, providing greater benefits to agencies and communities to combat furniture poverty. Let’s consider an example – a new truck equipped for furniture collection or delivery amounts to an investment of $200,000. Without this essential vehicle, our program reach inevitably reduces. While our social enterprise efforts help to offset this expenditure, it is through fundraising that we truly have the means to amplify our impact within the community.

Fundraising: fuel for our expanding ‘homing’ efforts 

Fundraising isn’t just about collecting money—it’s about building relationships and sharing our vision with those who can help magnify our impact. We rely on the generosity of individuals, foundations, and yes, corporations. They help us keep the lights on and trucks rolling, ensuring that families receive the comfort of a furnished home. Our approach is multifaceted, aiming to engage our community in meaningful ways. 

How does the fundraising work? 

Raising funds is crucial for Furniture Bank, and we place significant emphasis on reaching out to individual donors, foundations, and corporate partners. Indeed, these cash funds not only cover our numerous expenses but also ensure continuity in mission accomplishment. Donated goods, though gratefully accepted, cannot cater to expenses such as staff wages and utility bills.

A glance at our financial report for the nine months ending on September 30th, 2023 shows the following breakdown:

  • Individual donors contribute solely to 6% of our funds raised,
  • Corporate donations constitute less than 1% of our funds received,
  • Government grants account for roughly 6% of our income, and
  • A staggering 88% of our discretionary funding comes via foundations.

It is apparent from the data that individual donations form a minor part of our revenue. Therefore, the indispensable cash donations we require to operate efficiently primarily hail from foundations and corporations. Without their generous contributions, we would be compelled to limit our services and, thus, assist a lesser number of families in need.

Corporate partnerships & volunteering experiences  

At Furniture Bank, we see corporate volunteering as more than just moving furniture—it’s a commitment to our mission. When corporations contribute funds and time, they become integral to a movement, making a tangible difference and providing comfort in the homes of thousands through our corporate partnerships. What’s more, such ventures present a golden opportunity for the application of their skills right where it’s needed the most – at the heart of our community.

Holding volunteer events entails significant planning, investment, and effort. At Furniture Bank, we strive to ensure that our day-to-day activities and the contributions of our volunteering corporates yield meaningful experiences. We take great care in assigning tasks to corporate teams, leveraging their unique skills in various areas, be it strategic planning or hands-on activities such as furniture repair. We aim to foster balanced relationships that respect our mission while creating a lasting impact.

In 2023, year to date, 28 groups representing 353 corporate staff from 19 distinct companies have invested 1059 hours at Furniture Bank contributing 1% of our funding.    

The impact of our work  

From January to September, these costs have driven the impact teams and our processes to deliver the following outputs for our communities: 

  • 2457 families supported 

    • 4739 total individuals

    • 3425 adults  

    • 1300 children (27.40%)

  • 42,188 items delivered to new homes  

    • 17 items of home furnishing per home on average

    • 4,490 donor households

    • 1,055 households brought items to Furniture Bank 

    • 3,435 individuals hiring our furniture removal trucks
        

  • Our environmental impact  

    • 39,188 total items

    • 78,857.48 mature trees planted

    • 1,719,343 (kg) total emissions 

    • 379.54 total cars removed from the road

    • 709,618.70 (Ft) total cubic volume

What about our other initiatives?  

So, does our intervention end here? Absolutely not. We’re firm believers in the multiplier effect. This belief enables us to support other furniture banks across Canada and the US with training and operational aids. We avidly advocate for corporate partnerships with other reuse charities because we understand the collective social good that arises from collaborations.  

We have identified an opportunity to align with international efforts to learn from Europe’s more advanced reuse sector. One of our fundraising goals is to connect with other reuse charities and drive reuse in Canada beyond just home goods.  

However, these additional initiatives require funding too. We count on corporate partnerships and foundations. Without their generous contributions and continuous support, these programs wouldn’t exist. We continue to urge individuals, corporations and foundations to support our endeavours because your support can help us help many others.  

In fact, Furniture Bank served as the connecting link for reuse charities in Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax with IKEA in 2023. This was an unfunded activity, and due to a lack of resources, we had to scale back from sponsoring the Furniture Bank Network in the US and Western Canada as a result.  

So, please consider what lies behind our services the next time you see Furniture Bank or any other social enterprise. Our work is more than just an exchange of services – it’s facilitating positive social outcomes, building communities, and empowering people. Help us bring positive change to our communities by understanding our need to self-fund. 

Exploring the intersection of profitability and purpose 

We invite you to join us in this mission and help us help others.  

The imperative of self-funding: To keep our operations running, from paying the rent to running our delivery fleets, and even covering technology costs, the revenue from our services becomes extremely crucial. Without these revenues, we aren’t able to maintain our impact and offer the best possible home goods to as many clients as we do.  

Get involved with Furniture Bank

You can make a real impact in the fight against furniture poverty.

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