The average American household has about $7,000 in unused items cluttering up the rooms. That idea bothered Brittany Martin Graunke, a former industrial engineer working at United Way.
Graunke had seen the funding cuts nonprofits were suffering and was determined to find a way to get those items in homes and businesses to charities that could use them.
So Graunke created Zealous Good, a Chicago organization that
lets people and businesses donate directly to local charities. In
the past year, Zealous Good has matched more than $200,000 worth of
items with local charities and has become a full-time job for
If you're looking to donate, getting started is easy, Graunke says. Go to the website, create a login, share details about what you'd like to donate, whether you need it picked up or will drop it off, and estimated value. Zealous Good then notifies nonprofits who are looking for that type of item.
Once a match is made, Zealous Good sends the information to the donor, who then coordinates directly with the nonprofit. The best part is that the donor gets to know who the recipient is, Graunke says, and follow-up photos and stories are often shared between the donor and recipient.
"For families, we've found that it's been helpful for moms to teach their kids about giving back through our site. If a child has a favorite set of toys or some sort of memento that they didn't need to hold onto, the child was able to see another child in need benefitting from it," Graunke says. "So it's more significant for the child and a fun way to think through things."
Graunke encourages donors to think beyond typical donations of clothes and furniture. "Leftover, unopened baby formula, sports equipment, electronics. There's so much more that people can give that could be helpful," she says.
Nonprofits that want to be included for possible donations work with Zealous Good to create a profile page and decide what kind of items they're looking for. Organizations and donors currently are in Chicago, but this summer Zealous Good is expanding into the suburbs as well.
For more information, visit zealousgood.com.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.