Shrinking the digital divide, one piece of technology at a time.
The MIDMRKT CIO Forum is thrilled to announce a new Impact Partner for the event on October 27th – 29th!
This partnership will provide the opportunity for our midmarket CIO community to build a lasting relationship with a truly amazing non-profit organization.
I had the privilege to sit down with Aaron Wilkins, CFO for Human-I-T, Brandon Smith, VP of Business Development at Human-I-T, and Harrison Lewis, CIO for Northgate Markets (Human-I-T customer) to understand the value they bring to organizations and the community.
What’s the mission of Human-I-T?
Aaron: Human-I-T provides low income individuals and non-profits with technology, internet, and digital training. By reusing, instead of recycling electronics, our team transforms eWaste into opportunities for under-served communities, while promoting digital inclusion and online access.
How do you work with organizations to reduce eWaste and impact communities in need?
Aaron: We bring in used electronics, starting with our technology donations team. We check to make sure those devices are working or not, and we put them in one of three buckets – can we donate it? can we resell it to provide funding for our programs? Or, do we recycle the electronics downstream with an R2 recycler?
Bucket 1 is really about impacting the communities in need. We take the donation range of the computers that we have, and we refurbish the devices and identify individuals in the community and partner organizations that we have served, like the YMCAs or Boy and Girls Club. The partner organizations help us identify who in the community really needs help. We also partner with organizations like MIDMRKT Suite to spread awareness. Making sure if there are CIOs and organizations in other markets that we can serve them as well. We try to impact those markets by working with larger organizations to gather their technology and get it back out into the community.
Why is Human-I-T considered a ‘social enterprise’, instead of just a regular non-profit?
Aaron: We provide professional services to all of our clients, from an eWaste management standpoint, as opposed to what most non-profits do, which is accept charitable donations. Many non-profits provide a tax receipt that is itemized and allows you to claim your donations, but we actually have a number of free services that we offer to our clients.
We provide lots of free B2B services that most organizations, like Harrison’s, would normally pay thousands or millions of dollars for each year. Human-I-T is able to come in and slash expenses and impact an organization’s bottom line immediately, which allows organizations to focus on the things they do best. We still provide receipts if a tax deduction is needed.
We are helping the environment, we’re providing free B2B services to organizations, and we are impacting and giving back to communities. These are all reasons why we’re not considered a non-profit that exists for one specific reason. We try to make an impact across the board with businesses, with the environment, and with the community.
Brandon: We are also considered a triple bottom line business. We provide value to the businesses, the environment, and the communities. The services we provide to organizations help them save money through tax rebates and more. The environment is impacted because we are keeping items out of landfills and giving electronics a second life. And communities are impacted, because we provide individuals access to resources, helping them be able to access health resources, do their homework, apply for jobs, or even go back school.
What value do organizations get from participating with Human-I-T?
Brandon: We offer three great benefits:
- Free pick-ups or logistics – Human-I-T covers any logistical costs, including the packaging, shipment, the removal, and the uninstallation for particular donations. We accommodate qualified locations on a free model. Whether that be five palettes of used electronics on a dock in Pennsylvania or three racks in Miami, we’ll cover the costs to do everything from shipping labels to a white glove service.
- Data sanitization – We’ve seen competitors do this corporate-grade data wiping for anywhere between $2-$5, and as much as $10-$15. The data sanitization we provide is HIPPA, DOD, NIST 800-888 complaint. This allows us to work with leading banks, law offices, and hospitals that have legal regulations and very personal information. We’ve been vetted from organizations, like the Santa Monica Police Department and LA County, to ensure we’re compliant and safe with the chain of custody, storage and the wiping process.
- Itemized Tax Deductible Receipts – Typically, companies would pay our competitors for the pickup of the electronics and the wiping of the data. We do these things for free and we itemize anything with a processor – like a monitor, printer, desktop, laptop and more. We go through each donation and itemize the make, model and serial number and itemize the quantity for bigger tax deductions.
What’s the process that companies go through to donate?
Aaron: It’s very simple. Whether it’s a first-time donor or a repeat donor, we ask them to go to our website to fill out a quick form. This is found on the homepage, under “donate technology”. Organizations fill this out, so we know a few things: a. who they are and where they are located, and b. that they are ready to donate.
We respond to all business requests within one business day. Once we speak with the organization directly, it then just comes down to logistics.
What entities have gained benefits from the program?
Brandon: We really focus on keeping the recycled or second-life items out of landfills. We partner with local organizations to identify the people or communities in need. We will work with other organizations and ISPs to locate primarily low-income families. WE have found that this can impact the most people, since there are typically at least 3.1 people per family. Usually there are children in the low-income families, so we are helping the next generation do their homework, get good grades, and stay out of trouble. This encourages upper-mobility for families.
We primarily target low-income families, veterans, people with disabilities, and other non-profits.
For example, we work with USC to gather their eWaste from all the different schools and recycle it back to their university community computer center. Because of this, now everyone who finishes a course gets a fully loaded desktop, as well as digital literacy training, and full software.
human-I-T is trying to help communities and the environment by solving the digital divide with hardware, software, internet connectivity, and digital literacy training.
We want to empower people and their families.
- Northgate Markets
- Santa Monica Police Department
What was your overall experience like working with human-I-T.
Harrison: It’s been a very good experience and a very good relationship. It’s really gone beyond just simply a transaction. With a lot of other organizations, it was all about ‘how can we get rid of these electronics for free?’. We’d see these other companies come and go, and we didn’t give much thought to what would happen to the things we donated. We got to the point with some organizations where they wanted to start charging us. Things got complicated.
It was a part of the maturity of our organization and knowledge of what was happening to the equipment, which is typically being thrown in landfills in third world countries, that we were able to become conscious of the importance of a second-life for technology.
Once we found human-I-T, it made us more aware and proud that we were impacting the environment and the lives of people who live in a technology desert. The idea of being able to use that equipment in a second-life, avoiding landfills, and helping communities is very appealing.
It came down to social responsibility.
Our mindset changed from “I’ve got something that I have to get rid of” to “we can use these things to add value to people and communities and generations”. It’s much more powerful.
Our relationship with human-I-T has become a partnership. It’s not a transaction. They have been instrumental in helping educate us in terms of what’s possible and allowing us to do what we didn’t know was possible.
For example, formerly we would have eWaste that was just thrown to the side and piled up in a room or outside. We didn’t care what happened to it. human-I-T then came in and said, ‘We’re going to make use of this. This isn’t about eWaste. The equipment needs to be cared for to truly make an impact.”
Was it difficult to get your organization onboard?
Harrison: No, it wasn’t difficult. Once you tell the whole story about second-life and social responsibility it resonates.
For example, there was one organization out there that would take our eWaste, charge us for the logistics, and they would give us a credit back for anything that they found of value. Their value proposition is that they are employing people who would otherwise not be employed. On the surface, it was a powerful story, but when you hear the story of human-I-T it changes the mindset. They explain that it’s not about tearing down the eWaste, it’s about building up communities. They bridge the digital divide of these communities.
It was a no-brainer when we heard the human-I-T story.
What value did your organization receive?
Harrison: The services are valuable features, but the most valuable things are knowing that we are making contributions to these communities. human-I-T is very good about telling us about the difference that we’ve made, which is very powerful.
The ease of the completed transaction is also very powerful. They make it so easy, because the organization has so much integrity. When they say they are going to do something, they do it.
Just yesterday, I was speaking with my asset manager and she said the human-I-T was going to be here are 4:40pm today. It was the end of the day, but she had full confidence that they would be there. You can’t rely on many organizations to do that, but human-I-T does what they say they are going to do – they have integrity.
We actually save so much money, that we take a portion of that and donate back to human-I-T, because we believe in their cause.
Why would you recommend companies to partner with human-I-T?
Harrison: If organizations want to capture and quantify their practices in social responsibility and tell that story, human-I-T is a great organization to partner with.
Organizations that participate in this are all able to tell the story of giving technology a second life and impacting the digital divide. It’s very powerful. It becomes a very personalized story, not just about human-I-T, but about the part that each organization plays.
How did you come across human-I-T?
Harrison: It was at an event and met the founders of human-I-T. When they told me their story, it immediately resonated with me. I told them I would try it. I started off taking a part of my eWaste and directing it toward human-I-T. Once I had an opportunity to tour their facilities and vet them, I knew they were the real deal. I fully committed to them, and we haven’t looked back.
We are thrilled that human-I-T will be attending the MIDMRKT CIO Forum! Join us and discuss the opportunity for your organization to donate and create your own story!