A hard thing to confront when you first start a community outreach program is your inability to help everyone. There are so many vulnerable members of the community, and if you could, YOU would be the one to help them all.
But that’s not how it works. In order to keep your outreach program alive, you need to narrow your focus. You need to figure out how to do the most good with the resources you have. A few options include raising money with fundraisers, donating time through volunteer work, or collecting much-needed items with donation drives.
Through trial and error, we’ve learned that some of the most engaging projects are donation drives. More than money, people seem to love collecting tangible things to donate.
So how do you make the decision on what types of charities to choose?
Below are five donation drives that your group will love to take part in:
1. Hygiene supplies
One majorly vulnerable part of the community is the homeless population. When the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did a single-day count of people experiencing homelessness in January 2018, their totals numbered half a million people. Some of those people were in shelters and others weren’t, but many of them lacked basic hygiene supplies.
When we put together our hygiene donation drive last year, it was a huge success. Our only requirements were that the supplies be new (because of the safety issue) and – if possible – single use (because it’s easier for people who are transient to carry only small quantities of things). During our drive, we were able to collect over one thousand hygiene items, which we donated to a local homeless shelter.
Socks are another thing the homeless population desperately needs. As someone who has the luxury of changing my clothes daily, I can’t even imagine having to wear the same pair of dirty socks day after day. But the need for socks is about more than just vanity – socks protect your feet from frostbite, blisters, and other conditions that can be damaging or even deadly to someone spending so much time on the streets.
Like hygiene supplies, you’ll need to make sure all the socks you donate are new. If possible, they should be thermal or heavy-duty, especially if you live in an area with harsh winters. During our sock donation drive, we were able to collect ninety-two pairs of socks!
3. Non-perishable Food
I mentioned in a previous post that we do an annual autumn food drive to support the regional food bank. We usually make it a competition, splitting our employees into teams and making a winner out of whichever team collects the most money or food. I know a lot of people have fun with the task: going to the store and loading up on canned vegetables, dry pasta, evaporated milk, and whatever else they can fit in their cart. There’s something very Supermarket Sweep about the whole thing.
Apart from our Thanksgiving drive, we’ve organized several other targeted food donation drives. For example, this past summer we decided to collect jars of peanut butter and jelly. One in five kids goes hungry in the summer without school breakfasts and lunches, and we wanted to do our part to help them. We were able to collect almost 70 jars of PB or J!
4. Pet Supplies
Most of this list so far has been focused on people. But what about the vulnerable animals of the community? Our local humane society has facilitated 745 adoptions so far this year, and that’s not even counting the animals who haven’t yet been adopted. They need supplies to keep their shelter up and running. Our latest project is to help alleviate that need. We’re collecting dog and cat food, toys, beds, and cleaning supplies (which I imagine they run through at a fast rate).
If you’re considering a pet supplies donation drive, I would recommend it. It’s such an easy sell. One look at a cute puppy face and you’ll have people lining up to donate.
5. Work Clothes
We haven’t actually tried this one yet, but it’s next on our list. We’ve been focusing pretty heavily on the homelessness crisis, and we wanted to take it in a different direction. We’ve got a donation drive lined up for Dress for Success, a worldwide organization that helps empower women economically by giving them the tools they need to find and keep jobs. One of those tools is work-appropriate clothing. Most women I know have at least one business casual outfit in the back of their closet that no longer fits their body or their lifestyle. A used dress clothes donation drive is the perfect way to free up some closet space while at the same time doing some good in the community.
But what about men? We’re actually lucky enough to have a local organization that provides men with the same service as Dress for Success does for women. We’ll be collecting for both organizations, as well as a few more that aren’t focused just on work apparel. We’ll let you know how it goes!
Stay tuned for future updates. We have more outreach events up our sleeves, and we can’t wait to share them with you!
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