Every year before the start of semester, first year students at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business go out into local nonprofits. They use their business know-how to help restructure projects in the community. This year a group tackled a large pile of clothing donations in White River Junction.
In the back room of LISTEN, a nonprofit thrift story in White River Junction, there is a mountain of donated clothes waiting to be sold.
It towers 10 feet in the air and takes up the span of the warehouse at around 50 feet long.
Kyle Fisher, the Executive Director of LISTEN, says the problem is not too many donations but how to process them.
“There's two sides to this story,” he said recently, in the LISTEN warehouse. “Yes it is an awful lot of donated clothing items. However, that is the straw that we weave into gold in order to run all of the programs we run at LISTEN.”
He continued: “Without this pile here, we wouldn't be able to send people to summer camp from low-income families every year. We wouldn't provide the three-course community dinner meal that we do. We wouldn't be able to fill 300 fuel tanks for people here in the Upper Valley.”
That's LISTEN's model: their big thrift shop’s profits go to providing low-income families with services.
So what do you do with that giant pile of donated clothes?
Bring in a bunch of business students.
The group of five Dartmouth Tuck students spent several hours sitting in the back room at LISTEN on a recent afternoon.
Even as they present their ideas, people stop in the warehouse to drop off clothing.
One by one they throw their donations on top of the pile.
The students think there's a better way to use the space.
And they say the prominent pile of unsorted donations isn't a good approach to public relations.
Ariana Dwyer presents some ideas to keep the warehouse more organized when people come in to drop off donations.
“To start off with we try to address the problem of perception of seeing the big pile,” she said referring to a diagram, she and her peers created.
“So we thought what you could do was build a four-walled structure so when you're entering the store it's a small room. You enter and there's a wall in front of you, it's a half wall and under the half wall you have carts and this is where you can drop off your piles, so that's the only thing you see of the sorting process all together,” she tells the managers at LISTEN.
None the students see themselves using their Dartmouth business degrees to work with nonprofits in the future.
This is just an assignment.
But Barbara Pecorp, the store manager at LISTEN, says after hearing their presentation she thinks they will implement some of the students' ideas.
“The biggest one is the wall so the customers when they come in and that their donations are being processed when they're coming in. That they're not going to sit in a pile and that's what they worry about,” she said later that afternoon.
This Tuck program also sends students to other nonprofits in the Upper Valley to work with healthcare, environmental protection and arts.