It’s been exactly 966 days since my first day working on Zealous Good. In those days, I’ve learned so much about the amazing giving spirit of people, the power of a great non-profit and non-profit employee, and how technology really can make the world a better place.
However, in those 966 days I haven’t recounted on this blog the story of how I first came up with the idea of Zealous Good. So, here goes nothing as I share the story of Zealous Good…
In 2010, I was working at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. I spent some of my time meeting with UWMC donors to figure out how we could better connect directly to the people who supported us. The recession was in full swing and often I’d hear from donors how they would like to give more, but money was tight. Repeatedly, people would tell me they were downsizing and wanted to donate some of the excess belongings they had accumulated over the years. The challenge was they wanted to give it to a charity that truly needed the donations as compared to just giving to donation centers.
In March of that year, I was visiting one of the agencies funded by United Way, The Cara Program. As I walked through their amazing offices I saw all the different things that were needed to make the office run. Computers, desks, TVs, clothing for students, lockers, a refrigerator, chairs, office supplies, racks, shelving, and so much more. It sounds obvious but I hadn’t previously looked around and seen all the “stuff” that was needed to make something run. And, the stuff (of course) isn’t free. If it was donated, it took time to find the people with the right stuff at the right time. If it was purchased, it cost the organization precious dollars.
There was something missing. I had met people who had great, useful items that they wanted to donate to great charities. I was surrounded by charities that needed items to better do their work.
I essentially became obsessed with the issue and wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn what existed to help with this challenge. Would it be possible to create something that helped? Do people even want to give directly to charity?
I started finding every opportunity I could to talk to people about the concept. I had joined United Way after working for Bain & Company as a consultant and I approached my research like a case study. My challenge was I wanted to find a way to prove to myself that it wouldn’t work and that it wasn’t worth quitting my job to start it.
In December 2010, after 200+ coffee dates and hundreds of hours of night and weekend research, I realized there really might be something there and it was, with out a doubt, worth the risk of starting Zealous Good. I gave my notice at work and in January, January 18th to be exact, I bought the domain zealousgood.com and started working on building Zealous Good.
I choose the name Zealous Good because “zeal” has always been one of my favorite words. I liked the idea of people who care who receives their excess items are doing good with zeal. My dad, a marketing guy through and through, gave it the stamp of approval and I moved forward to the next challenge: building a website where I didn’t fully know how I wanted it to work.
To get started on the site, I had decided I was going to build something basic myself. I had never built a website before and had no idea where to start. I met with an advisor who had helped while I was researching the concept and he helped me settle on building a WordPress website with a contact form for people to submit donations. I went to a book store and bought “WordPress for Dummies” and got started.
From there the rest is history…