Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Refugee Stuff --Running a Furniture Donation Program --the problem of storage. Part Two.

Last time, see below, I was writing about storage problems.

I mentioned that our agency had a large storage area but access was controlled by a moving and storage company which was also the landlord.

As mentioned, this agency suffered from several problems relating to lack of internal communication and general disorganization, a situation further exacerbated by the sad fact that people did everything on an emergency basis, when in fact, the bulk of the emergencies they had were caused by lack of preparation, poor management and the odd policies of their parent NGO.

Therefore the members of the agency often did not follow or respect the policies of the moving company, their landlord, and there was constant friction over access to their own storage area. (When I was hired and put on the job, no one took the time to alert me to the landlord's policies in this area. In fact, no one seemed to consider them least bit important. It was not until the landlord called me to task for inadvertently breaking these policies that I even knew they existed. Hopefully, I will write a future post on the topic of "When doing business do not offend the people you must do business with," but the moment I wish to stay on task. Let's just say that the first thing I did the day after offending the landlord who controlled access to the storage area I needed to do my work and fulfill my mission was to sit down with him and work out a framework for a positive working relationship. I then did my best to follow the parameters of this agreement despite being saddled with several lunkheads for co-workers.)

Essentially our agency had a great storage (although badly misused and mistreated) except we only had access to it during business hours of 8:00am to 4:30pm, which was the hours when the moving company normally left the doors unlocked.

Therefore we could not move our own furniture outside of these hours except with great effort. (Again, more details to come hopefully.)

Also, because of mismanagement, and because our normal agency business hours were from 9:00am to 5:00pmm despite the fact that most moves were greatly pressed for time, our agency always started the moves an hour after our limited time to use the elevator had already begun.

Although I went time and time again to the management to complain about this nothing was ever done. --probably because she did not think in terms of quantitative analysis. (and was, perhaps, instead concerned with helping people "find their own voice" instead of helping them get the kitchen chairs she had promised them!)

Anyway. Do the numbers. 8:00 am to 4:30pm. That's just 8 and a half hours of work time.

By starting an hour late she was throwing away 2/17 of the day. That's almost 12% of the moving time.

DUMB!

DUMB!

DUMB!


[But it's okay, she has a good heart and listened with great sympathy to the refugees complain about it later. "HELLO THERE!" ---LET'S GET ONE THING STRAIGHT. IT IS NOT A RESPONSIBLE POLICY FOR REFUGEE CENTER MANAGER TO PLAN TO LISTEN TO REFUGEE'S COMPLAIN ABOUT THINGS THAT ARE CAUSED BY HER OWN ERRORS AND FOOLISH POLICIES INSTEAD OF PREVENTING PROBLEMS IN THE FIRST PLACE.]

One policy I wished to implement was that we acquire a second storage area, one to which we would have access on weekends and evenings, the times, coincidentally when volunteers are most available.

Therefore how can one obtain storage areas:

1) You can rent it. Go look in the yellow pages. Find storage areas. Check prices.

2) You can get it donated. There are people and organizations out there with garages, barns, storage sheds and even buildings (churches, parsonages, empty public buildings, schools, summer camps in winter, etc.) that they are not using and would love to have you find a valid use for.

And be imaginative.

Remember, your storage area does not need to be permanent although it does need to be around sufficiently long so that it is an asset to your organization instead of a looming problem waiting to happen.

I know of one agency that contacted a local supermarket chain and got them to donate a large truck trailer (minus the truck) which was then parked in an empty lot and used by them to store donated furniture.

3) And remember, do you actually need to use the storage area for all furniture in all cases? In at least some cases, it should be theoretically possible to just pick up furniture and deliver it to the people who need it without putting it in storage. [Again, hopefully a bit more on this later.]

I'd love to hear what others have to say.

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