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GIVIT to a smart charity

Emma Macdonald

Giving to charity becomes much more effective when you think outside the box.

Ten years ago, Queensland mother of two Juliette Wright had some baby clothes she was ready to give away.

But the charities she approached did not need baby clothes. Instead, they needed specific household items, or sanitary supplies for women feeling domestic violence, or steel-capped boots to help unemployed men secure work in the building trade.

Juliette pondered that while her goodwill was sincere, she was overloading charities with items they didn’t need while they were having trouble communicating to her – and others – what would be really useful for them.

Within six months she had created GIVIT.org.au – an online charity donation portal which had an initial 15 charities on board to request items. In 2011, when the Queensland floods hit, GIVIT became the state government’s official website for matching donors and recipients so charities weren’t swamped with excess goods. The GIVIT website received 1.8 million hits in 10 days and more than 33,500 goods were matched in three weeks. This led to the establishment of a dedicated GIVIT Disaster Recovery service.

Over the decade, GIVIT has facilitated hundreds of thousands of targeted donations around the country – such as the bike that enables a single mother to get to work, and donated microwave-heated meals for a man who lost his wife and is unable to cook. 
Now GIVIT is establishing a dedicated Canberra service with the support of the ACT Government. And this weekend, Juliette is in Canberra to celebrate being a Floriade charity partner to communicate the concept of smart donations to the ACT.

“When you look at Canberra, you’d probably think of it being a wealthy place with all the politicians, their staff and the public servants, but there’s another side to Australia’s capital city. The ACT itself has the highest rate of poverty in Australia outside of the Northern Territory. Knowing that there’s this huge need in the community but also lots of people who have things they don’t need any more, made me want to bring GIVIT’s service to the ACT to match those who have with those who need,” she says.

Juliette Wright with her team

Juliette said GIVIT allays a common concern people have about where their donation ends up.

“People are concerned that what they give is thrown out. People also want to make sure their donation reaches someone in genuine need, rather than a bargain hunter. GIVIT is the best way to guarantee that your donation goes to someone in need. Every request we have comes through registered charities who are working directly with people in need. Items are not re-sold. If there’s a request to GIVIT on behalf of a family in need for a kitchen table and chairs, there’s every chance the family is sitting on bean bags or on the floor to eat their meals. The requests we list are all genuine needs and it regularly shocks people when they find out what’s actually needed near them and why.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the charity’s growth has been a children’s portal to engage new generations in the GIVIT philosophy.

“We also really want to engage children from a young age so that, with the help of their parents or schools, they are able safely and securely give to people in need in their own communities,” she explains. “We’re currently revamping our GIVIT Kids website to target schools because we think that the school environment is the best way to reach generous kids who want to give but also educate them about the best ways to give.”

For those wondering how it works specifically, GIVIT is about as easy as using EBay or Gumtree. You can search an items-needed list to see if there are any charities near you that are already requesting what you have to give. If not, you can still upload your item into their unique “virtual warehouse” where their registered charity users can see it and they can reserve it if it’s needed. Either way, they ask for a photo and an honest description of the item. Once a match is made, it’s up to the donor and the charity user to arrange to drop off or post the item. Some charities even have the capacity to pick up items from the donor’s door. Donors can also specifically say when listing their item what delivery methods are best.

GIVIT has no overheads when it comes to storing and sorting public donations. In the ACT, government backing covers other overheads and GIVIT is funded nationally by the insurer, IAG and other corporate sponsors.

Juliette has a huge sense of achievement but is keen to see the ingenious model go international.

“We often get hundreds of hits to our website from different parts of the world. That’s particularly true after disasters so I think people are curious about our model. I also get quite few direct enquiries from people overseas asking me how GIVIT’s award winning disaster management system works. Going international for me would probably mean looking at New Zealand next. However, when you read that following the terrible Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, 174 tonnes of items were donated and that a month on half of those – 87 tonnes – had yet to be sorted, you can see that there’s a huge need for a system to sort through those donations before they actually get dropped off. You need a way of finding out and listing what’s actually needed and politely turning away what isn’t. As far as I’m concerned, GIVIT is the best way of doing that.”

Find out more at www.givit.org.au

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism – including a Walkley or two – along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials.

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