Getting started on your back-to-school program? Grappling with how to find the best products at the lowest cost? Are you in the process of identifying as many collection points as possible? Below are 3 tips for maximizing your back-to-school program while also streamlining your processes:
1. Pay for quality only where it counts. For school supply programs, we typically zero in on the backpacks. We have heard story after story of low income families receiving backpacks that don’t last. What good is it if they need to re-purchase a backpack just weeks or months after receiving one? So when you pick your backpacks, regardless of your budget level, look for the following:
- Good quality zippers: Zippers are notorious for breaking in low cost backpacks, so always ask about the size of the zipper used. Zippers have a number designation describing the approximate width of the zipper in millimeters when closed. Our favorite low cost backpacks use #10 zippers – and ever since we’ve started offering these, we have never received a complaint about zippers breaking.
- Size: Many organizations opt for smaller sizes for budget reasons, but we’ve heard from low income recipients that many of the bags at back-to-school events are simply not large enough. Often the issue is not the height of the backpack, but the depth – our lowest cost 17″ backpack (for elementary school students) opens to a depth of 7.5 inches. Avoid getting narrow backpacks under 6 inches for elementary school students and for middle to high school students, target 8 or 9 inches or more.
- Reinforced straps: Straps are a common location for backpacks to tear! Backpacks that have reinforced stitching at the top seam that connects with the top of the back are ideal. Or, select backs where the straps are offset and stitched separately from the top seam.
- Reinforced bottoms: Particularly for the older age groups (middle and high school students), look for backpacks with additional padding or reinforcement on the bottom, These children carry heavier loads, so the material needs to be stronger to handle the additional weight. Most of the low cost 18 and 19 inch backpacks we’ve reviewed have a single layer of fabric at the bottom, making them more prone to thinning and ripping prematurely.
2. Maximize your collections with an online donation drive. If you are running a donation drive with a lot of collection points, or starting a brand new school supply drive, leverage online donation drives to highlight specific supply needs. Online donation drives are a cross between the Amazon wishlist and a crowdrunding site – you choose your specific supplies and display them in a familiar campaign format. The online drives are an efficient way of focusing donors and streamlining your drive:
- Target under-donated items in the online drive to complement what you receive offline. Cap the number of popular items so you don’t receive too much of what you already get.
- Make it easy for your donors to contribute to your drive through the online option. Busy professionals, millenials, and other segments love the convenience of purchasing online. Relying solely on the physical barrels leaves a growing segment of your donor base out!
- Unlike a collection barrel and the Amazon wishlist, you receive reports of your online in-kind donors, so you can thank and build a relationship with them going forward.
- If physical collection barrels are a challenge, the online donation drive allows you to reduce the number of physical sites you need to manage.
3. Focus your outreach efforts on email marketing and recruiting groups. Marketing your program is resource intensive, so how do you get the biggest bang for your buck? From the hundreds of drives we have worked on, we find that:
- Email is still king, especially over social media. Consistently, we find that donors click and donate from links on concise, well crafted emails far more than social media posts. Nonprofits get many likes and some shares on social media, but they receive the bulk of their donations from well developed emails.
- Effective emails are focused and clear, and the call to action is front and center. Newsletters or emails where the drive information is buried on the bottom or not well surfaced simply do not work.
- Recruit corporate teams, service groups, and religious organizations to support your program – they can serve as extended members of your outreach team, reaching out to potential donors that you do not know. As a bonus, online drives provide you the contact information of these donors, so you can reach back out to them at the end of the drive – compared to the anonymity of the traditional collection barrel approach.
Need help planning your drive? Or have any questions? We work nonprofits to get the most out of their drives, upgrading the quality of supplies without increasing costs and streamlining the work involved. Reach out at email@example.com to learn more.