Lenox Non-Profit of the Month: Cincinnati Community ToolBank

The mission of the Cincinnati Community ToolBank is to serve community-based organizations by providing tools, equipment and expertise to empower their most ambitious goals. Since its inception in 2012, the ToolBank has empowered nearly 400 partner agencies on roughly 16,000 projects, eliminating cost barriers to tools and equipment across a broad spectrum of community issues. More than 246,000 volunteers & individuals have been empowered with #ToolsForChange valued at more than $7.4 million dollars!

When a volunteer decides to give their time and talents to an organization it is critical that they feel as though their time was valued and the experience was meaningful. Oftentimes, an organization will have the volunteers interested in helping them and they will have projects or job tasks that volunteers could help them complete. This could be anything from maintaining that facility grounds, to bigger cleaning or painting projects. But often times they do not have enough tools to equip a larger group or the funds to purchase tools.  

Before the ToolBank opened, organizations would often times look to their staff or volunteers bring tools from home. They may also spend time trying to get them donated or borrow them from other organizations.  Sometimes they would be successful but if not, the end result is a volunteer, that is eager and ready to work, standing around wondering what else they could be doing. Since every volunteer is a potential future donor, there’s nothing worse than a volunteer feeling like their time wasn’t meaningful or valued. In this case you’ve not only lost out on free labor but a potential advocate for your organization. 

Currently, no other program exists in the Cincinnati area that lends tools to nonprofits. The Cincinnati ToolBank aims to remove barriers for nonprofit organizations enabling them to think big and perform larger and more frequent service projects. The Cincinnati ToolBank has proven to be a unique and much-needed resource for our service and volunteer community and has had a tremendous impact, helping nearly 400 nonprofit agencies by providing them with quick and reliable access to an inventory of high-quality tools. 

Our member agencies often express that their concerns about tools & supplies on service projects are budget related. To give an example, Claire Long, Gorman Heritage Farm's volunteer coordinator, placed her first tool order with the ToolBank. The tool order was for their annual Sunflower Festival event and was, from our perspective, fairly modest, consisting of only 100 hand pruners, 25 safety cones, six safety vests, and four two-way radios. However, after a quick tour of the ToolBank and seeing the abundance of resources available and the low cost to borrow these items, Claire quickly realized there was so much more she could accomplish back at the farm with our assistance. 

"Because of the ToolBank, Gorman Heritage Farm is able to take on larger projects around the farm. We are now able to equip more volunteers, school groups, and corporate volunteers than ever before," she said. "By borrowing tools from the ToolBank, we have been able to increase our volunteer capacity by 48 percent in just one year." 

In 2016, 56 volunteer groups assisted the farm. In 2017, the farm hosted 107 workgroups, nearly doubling its project capacity. The farm was able to equip over 950 volunteers with blue tools to help dig 50-foot swales in the orchard, install miles of new fencing, remove invasive honeysuckle and, of course, cut thousands of sunflowers.

The ToolBank depends on the support of the community to be able to provide our services to our local nonprofits. With only three and a half employees, YOUR involvement is critical. There are several ways that you can get involved with the ToolBank!

DONATE - Your donation is critical to the success of the ToolBank’s tool lending program. Cash allows us to buy (at discount) large quantities of industrial grade “like” product making it safer, efficient and easier for volunteers and first responders to operate over extended hours of use. The ToolBank has also created an Amazon tool wish list for items that have been in high demand. Items range in price and are currently under $100.

VOLUNTEER - Whether you are a handyman or have never picked up a tool, we have a position for you. There are many ways you can volunteer at the ToolBank and we gladly welcome individuals and groups (up to 15+) to volunteer their time with us. We are actively looking for volunteers to support our tool lending program by pulling tool orders, completing simple repair tasks, assisting with large events at the ToolBank. We are also seeking for administrative assistance with data entry, Salesforce management, special events, and much more! Click here for more information on volunteering

ENGAGE YOUR COMPANY – The ToolBank hosts three signature events each year, “Banking on Our Community” one-day, hands-on volunteering event, with local banks and accounting firms and their clients assisting a selected local nonprofit organizations. “Building on Our Community” that partners with local contractors and their employees for a day of service with one of our nonprofit partners. Finally, the ToolBank hosts its annual “Haunted Hammers & Ales”, a fundraiser at MadTree Brewing Company that supports our Tool Lending Program. Each event has sponsorship opportunities as well as volunteer engagement opportunities for your corporate teams. For more information about how you can engage your company, please email Lauren.Hall@ToolBank.org.

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