Almost every organization we work with tells us about the challenges buying holiday gifts for teens. Toy drives never seem to have enough for teens, so organizations supplement with additional purchases. Even with the additional purchases, it’s a challenge to achieve the variety needed, especially given teens’ desire for individual expression. The “Adopt-a-Teen” approach is more effective than the traditional toy drive for customized gifts – and online tools available in the market now can streamline these programs so that the collection of wishes and matching with donors takes much less time than in the past.
We were curious about the requests made by teens in our adopt-a-family programs last year, so we took a deeper dive into the data for 13-18 year olds. Below you will find the most frequently requested items broken out into the following categories:
- Beauty Products
- Sports Equipment
Although this data is from the last holiday season, we suspect many of the types of requests will be similar from year to year. Brands trend in and out, but the basic item categories will change less slowly.
- Electronics items appeared in 20% of teen requests.
- The top requested items were the following (listed from most to least requested):
- Headphones (including Bluetooth headsets). Beats headphones were also specifically called out by some teens.
- Bluetooth speakers
- Gaming products included Playstation and Xbox controllers.
- 16% of all requests from teens included beauty products.
- Makeup was by far the most frequently requested item in 9% of all teen requests.
- Perfume and cologne were the next most requested at 3%.
- Nail polish and nail kits were also requested at 2%.
- Jewelry requests rounded out the category – including requests for earrings, necklaces and bracelets.
- Sports equipment appeared in 15% of all teen requests.
- The most frequently requested items were bicycles and helmets (4% and 3%).
- Basketballs were the most popular sports ball, followed by football and then soccer.
- Skateboards and scooters rounded out our list of most frequently requested sports items.
- Of the 21% of the requests for shoes, the generic request for “shoes” appeared in 12% of all teens’ requests and “boots” in 3% of their requests. The remaining requests were a wide array of brands and specific selections.
- The following brands are requested in order from most frequent to least:
- Vans (2%)
- Uggs (1%)
- Nike Air Jordan (<1%)
- Nike Air Force (<1%)
- Adidas (<1%)
- Gift card requests for shoes included Shoe Palace and Foot Locker.
- As with many other products, the trendiest shoes change from year to year, so last year’s brands may not have the same level of desire this year. For more recent news about this year’s teen shoe trends, check out this article: https://footwearnews.com/2018/business/trends/shoe-brands-teens-nike-vans-adidas-athleisure-streetwear-1202548339/
- The most frequently mentioned gift cards for teens is similar to other segments – the top 3 were:
- Target (7%)
- Amazon (6%)
- Wal-Mart (4%)
- The rest of the gift card requests were a huge variety – just to name a few:
- Forever 21
- Charlotte Russe
- Victoria Secret
- Bath & Body Works
- And many, many more….
- Many donors prefer to purchase actual goods versus gift cards, but given the teens’ specificity and desire for individual expression, this variety of gift cards makes sense. If you do collect gift cards as part of your holiday program, be sure to request a wide range of brands for the teens.
So how does a nonprofit address the needs of teens during the holidays? There are 2 types of programs that we typically see.
Many organizations run toy drives – and request specific items for teens. These toy drives are very popular, but many organizations don’t receive enough gifts for the teens at the end of the day and supplement with additional purchases. To help address this issue, at Roonga, we have set up online drives with specific teen items, making it easy for donors to purchase gifts specifically for teens and bolstering the amount they receive for this age group.
If you are running a donation drive, some of the safer popular items include:
- Bluetooth speakers
- Bikes and helmets
- Sports equipment (basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, scooters, and skateboards)
- Gift cards – make sure you target a variety and include vendors like Sephora where teen girls can select makeup or other beauty products that suit their needs.
If you are interested in other ideas for teens, here are a few links to peruse:
- Gifts for tweens and teens: https://www.jenraly.com/gifts/unique-gifts-for-tweens-and-teens/
- Gifts for teenage girls: https://www.thespruce.com/best-gifts-for-teenage-girls-4150445
- Gifts for teenage boys: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/gift-ideas/g28414150/best-gifts-for-teen-boys/?slide=12
Another option for the holidays is to host an “Adopt-a-Teen” program where your teenage clients can specifically identify their wishes and a donor who is matched goes out and purchases those items. The benefit of this approach is that the individual desires of the teens can be met – which is much more challenging to do with the traditional toy drive. The downside is that the effort required to collect wishlists and match with donors can be time prohibitive. The good news is that there are online platforms now available that streamline the collection of wishlists, greatly reducing the effort required to run these customized programs.
At Roonga, we recommend the “Adopt-a-Teen” approach for organizations that have a high teen client population. It’s extremely difficult for the generic toy drive to meet the variety and specificity of teen desires, so why not allow donors who are interested in shopping to go out to meet those needs? The added bonus of the online solutions is that you can also highlight each teen’s story, which donors love to read.
For more information about how Roonga’s online “Adopt-a-Person” platform works, click on this link: Roonga’s Adopt-a-Family Platform.
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