worldvision3 Ever wonder how the organizations your support function on a practical, day-to-day level? We often ponder this. It’s important to know how a charity runs, where they use the money and items you donate, and how they handle the cultures they come into contact with.

We wanted to get a clearer picture of how one of the charities we support – WorldVision – gets donations to hundreds of countries around the world, so we took a trip (and a bunch of teens) to their Gifts in Kind Distribution Center in Pittsburgh PA.

There we were able to see the operations, learn about how they use these gifts to empower and enrich local communities while building self-sufficiency, and find out more about how they manage to run their organization so efficiently and without wasting valuable donation dollars on administrative cost and other things that can cannibalize a charity’s budget.

The answer, it turns out, is in gifts – of items, logistics, and – perhaps most importantly – time. Thousands of volunteers partner with WorldVision to get the gifts in kind ready to ship all over the world. This model, it turns out, helps the organization keep a lean budget like nothing I’ve ever seen.

worldvision2I personally was so impressed with the way they run a massive warehousing and distribution center on a shoestring staff and budget. Jonathon, our volunteer coordinator explained that they have a lot of help from corporate partners, who donate clothing, medical supplies, housing supplies, and other items; logistics organizations; and volunteers (just like us) who come in every day to help sort, pack, and palletize the enormous quantities of gifts that are donated each year.worldvision warehouse

We toured the warehouses – there are thousands upon thousands of boxes ready to go wherever they are needed – for disaster relief, small business development, housing, clean water, agricultural training, clothing, and education – and even sports, toys, and other fun things that kids in other countries just don’t have. Every single one of these boxes was packed by volunteers, which helps the organization save a lot of money, and helps us, as supporters feel a deeper connection to the people we are serving.

John, the teens, and I spent a very happy day with our friends from Ambridge, PA, packing pallets of summer clothing, generously donated by a very well known corporate entity.

zion and naomi worldvisionWe sorted the clothing by warmth, type, size, and gender, then labeled the boxes and palletized them. Finally we shrink wrapped them and sent them off to the warehouse, where they will wait until needed by one of the centers around the world. Typically Worldvision cycles through its entire donation storage once every 5 months – this can be quicker if a natural disaster strikes. Finally, we toured the warehouse and learned about how the logistics system works to get things where they are needed most, and how the organization works hard to meet people’s needs without destroying their personal dignity and while respecting their beliefs and way of life. You can learn more about the WorldVision Center here