When a local woman discovered that donations don’t always go to people in the greatest need, she developed a new way to give.

It was shortly after the birth of her daughter that Angie Janssen discovered an odd truth:  life with small children can lead to the accumulation of large amounts of stuff.   Her older son was a toddler and between them the kids had more toddler gear than they could use.  She started giving away the extras.

It coincided with a crisis:  the closure two years ago of the Long Island homeless shelter in Boston.

“As I’m in the process of going thru my toddler stuff and figuring out what I need and don’t need, I’m also simultaneously reading about homeless families in Boston having to barter for basic necessities on the street,” said Janssen.  “I started to wonder, where are all my donations going?  If they’re not going to people exactly like this where are they going?”.

She discovered many large donation centers sell much of their inventory in thrift stores, recycling centers and overseas.   Then she tried to give away a bed.

“I google, you know, give bed away,” recalled Janssen with a laugh.  “It was just really hard.  There’s no infrastructure for getting goods from people who have them to people who need them.  And I thought that was as shame.   And the bed went on Craig’s list, which I also think was as shame.”

It led Janssen to launch Donii, an online platform that allows donors to give to nonprofits seeking specific items.  For instance, put the word table in the Donii system and a list of nonprofits seeking tables appears.

“What Donii has really done is, they’ve made our jobs easier,” explained Shannon Arnold, director of communication and development at FamilyAid Boston.  “In terms of being able to just go on the website and say: ‘we need a Pack’n Play (portable crib) for a baby; we need a set of pots and pans for a family moving into housing for the first time’.”

Donii launched three months ago and most donations are from corporate partners, among them C Space.  The Seaport-based company partnered with Donii as an employee perk.  Collection bins allow employees to drop off donations at the office.  Erica Insel works at C Space and donated a set of dishes.  In return, she received something unexpected:  a note telling her about the recipients.

“It went to a mom and her two sons who just got into a new apartment, said Insel, “so I was really excited to hear that.”

In the next year, Janssen hopes to launch a Donii app.  Her long term goal is ambitious: 

“If we were able to redirect even a fraction of what people in Boston donate on a yearly basis, we would fully eliminate the problem of material need as a symptom of poverty in Boston.”