Market research for a non-profit?

I’d like to start collecting bedding for people in need, with an eye to eventually turning it into a small-scale, local, but full-blown organization. I have a certain amount of experience in various aspects and levels of non-profits, but not in this area (both geographically and start-up, and specifically bedding), so I’m not sure the right way to get started.

I know there is a need, but I don’t know what else is out there attempting to meet the need. Some fairly extensive googling has turned up absolutely nothing, so I want to do some talking to related charities to see what they know of and whether it would be of any use to them.

Is it weird? If I call or email and explain what I want to do and flat-out ask them if they want it or know of anyone who is already doing it? It seems like the obvious thing to do, but also somehow seems like cheating, like I’d be tryig to get them to do my homework for me. But is there any other way to find out?

All the charities I work with are more than happy to talk to people about what they are doing, and what they aren’t doing.

When I meet people who are involved in other charities, we often try to figure out if we can help each other out. Sometimes you can cross-refer clients. Sometimes you can help each other out with fundraisers/awareness campaigns, etc. You never know when knowing someone else is useful in charities.

I’d ask around. If you’re comfortable talking to religious institutions, they’re a good starting point. Many have mini-thrift shops, and have people that like to help others. If you have a local Goodwill or Salvation Army shop, the management there likely has useful information.

Some shelters have programs for people who ‘graduate’ into their own housing. This often involves getting them set up with furniture, kitchen supplies, sheets, etc. They might be able to tell you what resources they know of, and where the gaps are.

If you happen in be in the South Florida area doing this, I can give you lots of references to go through…


That’s not weird at all. I think your idea is great - and I’m usually extremely critical of new non-profit ideas, especially regarding housing. This is an absolute need, and few organizations are providing a solution. The current solution is “this is not in our budget” for most orgs.

Where are you thinking of getting your supplies?

As for ideas on where to start - find out where your local Continuum of Care group meets, and when. They’ll be a fantastic resource for every organization dealing with housing and the homeless in your area. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding them. If you do, contact your local HUD office.

I salute and applaud you for wanting to make a positive difference in your community.

One of the legal issues you’ll need to address are your state’s laws regulating the sanitizing of used bedding prior to re-sale: results of a quick Google search.

Thank you so much, guys. That is really encouraging. I’m in Canada and have done some research on sanitizing, but also have some connections for new mattresses and pillows, and sanitizing used blankets, sheets, and bedframes is of course much less involved. I really appreciate your thoughts and advice. Thanks!

There goes most of my advice! I’m frankly not sure what the Canadian equivalent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is, or what the particulars would be. But good luck.