Logistics is a complicated aspect of many businesses, but it can prove to be the Achilles’ heel for a nonprofit organization. Shipping costs can add up quickly, threatening to erode an already-limited budget. The more money that goes toward logistics means less money spent on the cause, whether that’s getting pet food to animal shelters or meals to food banks. Even if an organization can afford it, there may not be dedicated staff with logistics experience to book carriers, schedule loads, or track shipments.
That’s why the American Logistics Aid Network, or ALAN, is so vital to the success of many nonprofits. Born out of Hurricane Katrina devastation in 2005, ALAN secures logistics providers for nonprofit services, whether that’s connecting them to business donations or helping them ship resources to communities in need. They’re currently the only organization in the country providing donated ground shipping in this way. Executive Director Kathy Fulton put it best: “Every nonprofit organization, just like every business, has some sort of logistics services that they need provided. When they have to spend their precious donated dollars on that, it takes away from whatever their original mission may be. We can act as their force multiplier to move their mission along and help them do incredible things.”
Finding a new way to provide aid
Typically, ALAN has partnered with traditional brokers to procure logistics services, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they were searching for more ways to assist organizations working overtime. FEMA connected ALAN to Uber Freight, where they were introduced to the shipper platform. Both the technology and the donated loads through Uber’s #MoveWhatMatters campaign helped unlock more opportunities for several US non-profits.
Kathy recalled that the nonprofits naturally gravitated to the Uber Freight shipper platform, a self-service tool that provides instant quotes, 24-7 access to carriers, and live shipment tracking. Crises are never scheduled and never the same, so it is difficult for non-profits to commit to predetermined contract lanes. Sometimes donation opportunities have to be accepted in a matter of hours or days. If there is no fast, seamless way to move them, they could be gone. Kathy noted that Uber Freight gives some power back to the organizations: “[They’re] able to see what the pricing is and have that confidence to book a load quickly and transparently.” Transparency, she said, is extremely crucial for nonprofit decision-making, especially when tight capacity leads to higher rates.
Bringing technology and COVID-19 relief together
One of the organizations that has benefited from ALAN’s partnership with Uber Freight is World Vision, a global non-profit that provides aid during humanitarian disasters. According to World Vision’s Director of US Domestic Disaster Response Michael Bassett, COVID-19 turned all of their American operations into one, giant pandemic relief effort. They have mainly focused on getting food, cleaning supplies, and personal care product donations to turn into individual emergency kits capable of supplying a family of 5 for a week.
Bassett said he doesn’t normally focus on World Vision’s logistics operations, but that it’s “all hands on deck” during a crisis of this magnitude. In reevaluating some of the budget constraints, he was looking for ways to cut overall costs when he learned about Uber Freight. “The less money we spend on logistics, the more money we spend on food,” he said. He and his team quickly onboarded and began booking loads of family emergency kits on the shipper platform. The kits were delivered to some of the neediest communities World Vision serves, such as the Navajo Nation and Beaumont, Texas along the US-Mexico border. Bassett has scheduled some of the loads himself and said, “The platform is easy to use. A lot of the stuff in our logistics world is just like email. It’s really clunky. We have some TMS stuff, but it’s not really integrated.” After successfully moving 10+ loads with Uber Freight, Bassett is now exploring ways to continue using the platform for shipments beyond the emergency kits.
The future of nonprofit logistics
Overall, Uber Freight’s technology helps organizations like ALAN continue to aid nonprofits like World Vision as they work to provide disaster aid. Kathy asserts that there will always be another nonprofit to assist. “My goal is to work myself out of a job because I want the nonprofits to gain the [logistics] knowledge and experience so they don’t have to call us,” she said. “If I’ve enabled them to do this on their own, I’m thrilled with that.”
Learn more about how the Uber Freight shipper platform can accelerate your business.