“It will set a new path for Arc,” said Piper.
Although the organization receives some funding from the county and state, the primary business model for the Arc is the Resource Collection Center, which collects clothing and light household goods for sale to thrift shops. However, said Piper, as cell phones increasingly replace landlines, the traditional approach of calling potential donors in the evening hours is not productive anymore.
“We’re looking at using new technology, to maximize social media such as Twitter, email, texting and Facebook,” Piper said. “This is an area where we need major improvement.” He also said this is one area where the business community could really assist the organization.
“We need expertise on how to conduct that part of our business better, to take advantage of new technology.”
Another way for the business community to support the Arc is to create employment opportunities for people with all levels of abilities.
“The more we can encourage [people with developmental disabilities] to fully participate and achieve independence, the more they thrive,” said Piper. “It’s a great opportunity for businesses to add a richness [to their company culture].”
Justin Myers, past board president and business banking manager for the Camas branch of US Bank, said businesses can help by conducting clothing drives. He said that in addition to pants and t-shirts, the Arc can also use coats, hats, blankets, linens, underwear, books, CDs and light furniture. Unlike other organizations that collect household goods in the area, said Myers, all of the Arc’s donations – and the funding they enable – stay right here in Southwest Washington.
Going forward, said Myers, the Arc will focus on growth, reducing debt and relationships.
“There is competition for dollars,” Myers said. “If we don’t grow, we’ll start living paycheck to paycheck – and that’s not fair to our staff, our clients or the community.”
Myers said that during the last two years, the Arc has worked with vendors, such as clothing vendors and Casey’s Auto Repair, to creatively pay down the organization’s debt.
“They were very supportive. We made a commitment to pay our debt, and we did that,” said Myers.
Currently, the organization is selling its second building, located on Fourth Plain near the Vancouver Mall. Myers said the price tag on the 4,400-square-foot space was recently reduced to $599,000.
Myers is excited about the Arc’s future. He said they just bought a new truck, and are proactively growing partnerships with churches, other nonprofits and for-profits.
“They can be struggling, and we can be struggling, but if we put our heads together we can survive,” said Myers. “It’s a win-win-win situation – for us, other nonprofits and the community.