Sharing Skills to Help the Kids in Need Foundation
Dec 4, 2019

What happens when 3M's pro bono community engagement program and an engineer rotational program collaborate? Success for a common cause.

3M Impact in a Day, 3Mgives' skills-based hackathon, and the Optimized Operations (O2) Engage programs linked arms this year to maximize impact for the Kids in Need Foundation (KINF). As part of the two-year manufacturing and supply chain development program, the O2 Experience includes O2 Engage social responsibility projects for community nonprofits. KINF is a national organization whose mission is to source free school supplies to students with the greatest need.

KINF Resource Center Director Jeff Dahlman said the organization participated in 3M Impact in a Day this past March to gain supply chain management suggestions from a team of 3Mers with supply chain experience. In 2018 KINF became backlogged from their 55 school supply drives, with tasks ranging from database management to processing receipts. Their goal for 2019 was to have 100 supply drives.

"We explained our dilemma to the 3M Impact team," Jeff said. "How do we properly bring product in, count it immediately, sort it immediately and acknowledge the donor and community groups?"

Jeff and KINF went into 3M Impact in a Day thinking they'd get three hours of much-needed help.

They ended up getting a lot more.

During the hackathon, KINF and a half dozen 3Mers brainstormed solutions and developed recommendations to streamline donation processing. But the partnership didn't end there. Paul Aufenkamp, global O2 program manager, connected two O2 engineers and one O2 alumna with KINF to continue the effort. KINF became a recipient of an O2 Engage social responsibility project, in which each O2 dedicates 40-80 hours annually to a nonprofit organization.

"To see that synergy develop between 3M Impact and O2 Engage, and deliver end-to-end solutions for the customer, was a really cool experience," Paul said.

Kayla Kaasa, Samantha Galla and Alexis Brannan were the O2 brain power on the project, utilizing supply chain and Green Belt skills with a focus on automation and safety.

To streamline KINF's counting, sorting and receipt system, the O2 team initially came up with a barcode system. Due to limited internet capabilities, Kayla explained, they needed to change course. "We switched to counters and we put them on each category bin to combine the sort step and the count step," she said. "There is potential to use the barcode system in the future."

When it came to sorting inventory, colors were the answer.

"We color coded inventory into the eight categories from the previous 30. It makes it an easier process for someone (such as a KINF volunteer) to learn," said Alexis.

As a result of the 3M Impact in a Day and O2 Engage collaborative efforts, KINF reduced supply donation cycle time from two months to four days during the 112 school supply drives it conducted this year. Jeff explained that KINF now puts less time into the counting and organization of donations, which also makes the volunteer experience more fun and increases opportunities to engage community members. In addition, KINF received grants from 3M Foundation, including $2,500 for participating in 3M Impact in a Day, as well as 3M Volunteer Match grants from the O2 employees (at $500 per employee).

"This really opened a door for us and showed us what 3M does to support the community," Jeff said.

3M's support of KINF doesn't end here.

"We are working on finding O2s from the next wave to help KINF in the future," Samantha said. "It's an ongoing relationship."

Learn more about 3M Impact in a Day and 3Mgives.​

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