Online shopping for good: ASU student's nonprofit lets donors buy in-demand items for shelters
by Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation
May 19, 2020
In February 2019, Anthony Valencia founded the nonprofit organization ShelterShare, an online platform that connects members of a community to local shelters and allows them to buy specific items of need.
Valencia, now a senior studying organizational leadership at Arizona State University, had no idea how useful this tool would become in the coming year as COVID-19 kept many community members at home and unable to volunteer at local shelters.
The ShelterShare website allows shelters to post items or resources that they need, such as toothbrushes, canned food, deodorant or diapers. If community members want to donate, they can click on items the shelter has posted and add them to their online shopping carts, just like shopping online -- only the items will go to the shelter instead of their own front door.
Valencia said the user experience of choosing items to donate has been positive as well.
“They know where their money's going,” Valencia said.
One generous donor from Claremont, California, said he wanted to help because of all the people going through financial difficulties, according to a testimonial released by ShelterShare. A friend told him about ShelterShare, so he checked it out.
“I went to the website and was able to easily pick a local shelter from their list,” Garret said in a testimonial. “It felt amazing to be able to donate and help others during this crazy time. I will definitely be donating through ShelterShare in the future.”
Valencia (pictured above) said shelters are running low on many resources right now, and ShelterShare steps in to help these shelters with the situation they’re in right now.
“There is such a high demand for these items,” Valencia said.
Deanna Alsdor, the operation manager for Foothill Family Shelter in Upland, California, said the shelter is very grateful for the support of ShelterShare, according to a testimonial released by the company.
“Every item donated goes to support homeless families in need in our community. Words cannot express our appreciation for all of the resources ShelterShare has provided for our organization,” Alsdor said in the testimonial.
There are also a lot of people at home who want to help, but are unable because of COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place protocols. Valencia says that ShelterShare gives them an opportunity to still contribute.
“[ShelterShare] really allows anyone who is socially distancing or just wanting to help,” Valencia said. “[They can] log in and support the shelters from the safety and comfort of their home.”
He said ShelterShare isn’t making any money off of its service, the idea for which came from his time volunteering. They try to keep the prices as close to the cost of the actual product as possible. The only fee that’s charged is what the payment processing system, Square, charges to use its service; which is 30 cents plus 2.9% of the transaction, according to Valencia.
Valencia said ShelterShare has gained a lot of recognition and attention within the last few months because of the social distancing protocols in effect.
They have grown to serve about a dozen shelters in the Los Angeles area and eight in the San Francisco area.
Valencia said ShelterShare has a lot of potential, and he hopes to help communities and shelters across the United States.
“The goal is to pretty much reach any shelter that needs help connecting members of the community with shelters in need.”
Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz