In April 2020, it became apparent that safely operating a business, especially a nonprofit, through COVID was going to be challenging. Personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies were needed throughout the entire world for organizations to operate safely. Additionally, PPE was hard to source, and what could be sourced was expensive and, in many cases, came from unreliable vendors. Nonprofits did not have the time, talent or resources to invest in securing supplies. Funders, on the other hand, were faced with an outpouring of requests. One funder received $200,000 in requests to support PPE expenses in a one-week timespan. Funders were faced with the question of how a system might be created to use business talent and resources to source and centrally distribute the PPE items for free to nonprofits.
Heidi Dusek, executive director of the J. J. Keller Foundation, designed a system to integrate business talent, centralized fundraising and supply distribution using the power of scale to help all nonprofits operate safe and healthy workplaces. Given Valley Packaging Industries’ (VPI) background in supporting the Fox Cities Diaper Bank and other business streams, VPI was approached and agreed to be the nonprofit lead for this project, acting as the fiscal agent and logistics coordinator. The model was simple — offer a regional coordinated effort to source, bulk purchase and distribute various PPE needs for nonprofits in the region. While the solution showed great potential, the overall strain on funders and nonprofits was proving to be heavy in administrative resources for all parties.
Finding a solution to that wasn’t hard. A team of young professionals at Oshkosh Corp. found a way to simplify the administrative burden by finding a business tool to capture and process requests that made it simple to access PPE for nonprofits in Northeast Wisconsin. Behind the scenes, corporate sourcing and logistics talent from J. J. Keller & Associates worked with vendors to navigate bulk purchase agreements and maintain inventory workflows. Additional talent from Oshkosh Corp. assisted with process flow and accountability tracking. Funding and in-kind supply resources from 12 funders and corporations helped the team collaborate and adjust to the emerging needs to provide free PPE items while allowing the nonprofit staff the time and capacity to do what they do best — support their clients and run programs.
This collaboration continues to gain momentum as PPE has been provided to more than 60 nonprofits since June. PPE distributed includes cleaning products, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, acrylic panels, thermometers, disinfectant wipes and more. Since PPE is still needed, this model continues to scale and reach people and organizations throughout the region, with potential to move beyond offering PPE in the future. It’s a true testament of collaborative, creative problem-solving and continuous improvement. The system has the potential to partner businesses and nonprofits on a regional level in other ways. If you are a nonprofit, you can access the supplies by visiting the website below and submitting an order. If you are a business or donor who sees the value of this model and would like to contribute or explore future implications, please contact Heidi Dusek at [email protected].
Companies: J. J. Keller Foundation and Oshkosh Corp.
Innovation: Delivering PPE to nonprofits
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