Adopt-A-Family programs are one of those initiatives that are meaningful and impactful on so many levels, yet the logistics associated with them are challenging and difficult to pull off. Our mission here at Roonga has been to facilitate in-kind giving to help those in need get what they need most. Our Adopt A Family (or Person) platform greatly simplifies the work involved in managing these programs by allowing you to:
- Streamline your request collection process: Social workers or nonprofit staff enter and update requests directly online – eliminating the need to send forms back and forth. The status of requests are tracked in real-time so all parties know what’s going on throughout the program.
- Improve the quality of your requests: Rules built into Roonga’s online adoption drive ensure greater consistency and quality in the descriptions entered, especially if your wishlists are entered by third parties such as social workers or case managers. Your client profiles and requests can only be published once approved. Our approval workflow also allows you provide timely feedback to your social workers and case managers.
- Track results in real time: Track the adoption status of your clients in real-time. Through our online reports, you know exactly who has been adopted and who has not. Come dropoff time, you also know which gifts have been received and which have not.
- Draw in your donors to your cause: Engage your supporters in a more meaningful way by allowing them to select their own families or children. Searching and reading the stories allows them to establish a deeper connection with your clients – and in the process, your donors may even select more adoptees than intended!
In today’s post, we will share a few best practices to ensure that the program is off to a great start. These 5 tips will help you plan and execute the collection process in a more effective way.
1. Create an Instruction Sheet For Your Social Workers
To avoid a situation where each social worker or volunteer does their own thing, we recommend creating a 1-2 page guide, and perhaps even host a short training session to all of those who will be talking to the families to get their wish-lists. We would recommend clear instructions to the following:
- How to login to Roonga and how to input information in the system.
- How to introduce the program to the family / person being adopted.
- How to gently acquire some context about this family’s (or individual’s) situation in order to share their story and help donors with their shopping.
- What typical items go on the list (clothes, shoes, toys), and any items that should be avoided.
As part of this training, some organizations hold a quick role play for new volunteers, or alternatively have one of the more experienced social workers/volunteers join in on the first interview to provide feedback to new members.
2. Give The Families Time To Prep Wish Lists
In our experience we learned that it is best to give families some time to digest the information on the program and prepare before they provide their holiday wishlist. Some organizations give each family a preliminary call to confirm the information and share the good news. Asking a family to come up with a wishlist on the spot can be overwhelming to anyone, and you’re almost guaranteed to have missing or incorrect information. In addition, some families are unsure of the desired gifts and sizes for the children. We recommend giving them 24-28 hours to prep their list. Ideally there shouldnt be too long of a gap between the notification call and the wishlist call.
During the prep (or initial) call, we recommend asking the family to come up with 3-5 NEEDS and 3-5 WANTS for each family member. By NEEDS we mean things that they must have (clothes, shoes, household essentials) and by WANTS we refer to comfort items or toys. Please let the family know what items are off limits. For example, some organizations will exclude gun toys. In addition, let the family know about any price limits, for example some organizations discourage expensive ones such as game consoles. It is important to set expectations with the families, so that they have those in mind while they prepare the wish list.
Of course, some programs only support NEEDS or only WANTS, so these guidelines should be adapted to your program’s guidelines and design.
3. Handle The Interview Effectively
A conversation with a social worker or a non-profit volunteer around the need to be in an Adopt A Family program can trigger various emotions with the selected family and should be handled with the appropriate sensitivity.
A good conversation starter is “tell me about your family” if the interviewer has never met this person, or “how are you doing these days?” would be a good question to pose if the volunteer has met this family prior.
These interviews can be long, especially when there are multiple members of the family, and therefore it’s important to handle it effectively. We recommend:
- Work in an organized fashion. Start with the oldest family member and allow 5-10 minute per person to understand their needs and wants. Ask follow up questions to get the most details or options about the desired items.
- In your introduction to the family, explain the process of the call. If the family has been prepped, there should already be a list of needs and wants for each family member.
- Take all notes in a notebook or a piece of paper, and only later transfer it to Roonga. That allows for a backup as well as a place to jot down rough notes to later upload them in an organized way. It is important to upload the wishlist as close as possible to the interview, while the information is still fresh.
- Be ready with some suggestions and/or alternatives if the request cannot be accommodated. Keep in mind that these families don’t know what they can or cannot ask for. Some may be timid while others may ask for things that are not realistic. You can help navigate them in the right direction
- If applicable/permissible, remember to ask where they shop for groceries and their gift card of choice. Some donors will prefer to get a gift card so that the member can select their own items.
- In the Additional Information section, it is recommended to add any special comments, for example, if special sizes are needed, or the family’s situation requires only certain items/brands. This would be a place to explain it to give context to the donor.
4. Get Lots Of Details
One of the benefits of an Adopt A Person program is that the items can be specific to the person receiving them (as opposed to, say, a general toy drive). Therefore during the interview it is important to get as much detail as possible, but also give options. Here are a few guidelines to consider:
- Shoes: What style is preferred (Athletic, Flats, Dress shoes, Slippers, etc). It is ok to put in preferred brands (eg Vans, Nike, Crocs). In addition, remind the family that they might want to size up children’s shoes, since they will likely receive the gifts a few months from now.
- Clothes: Clarify what is most needed. Each clothing item should be described in a separate line for maximum efficiency. For example, if a child needs a coat, uniforms, and underwear, these should be listed as 3 line items.
- Ask for Colors/Patterns. Provide at least a couple of options for the donor to choose.
- Unusual Items: for any item(s) that are unusual or more expensive, you may provide a link or information on where to get them. Be mindful of overall cost by prioritizing most needed items first.
5. Share A Story
Stories are a powerful tool to connect with the donors on the other end. We recommend providing at least 3-5 sentences about the family, their situation, and anything that can bring their story to life (while keeping sensitive information confidential, of course). Here are a few examples:
* * *
Charles recently turned 23 years old and has been left to raise two boys. Charles has been couch surfing and has been accepted into a housing program for foster youth. He and his two boys, Charles Jr (2) and Carson (1 month), will be able to have their own place before winter comes. Charles Jr has is working on using his words and has mastered saying DaDa and is enjoying cuddle time with Carson. Carson loves to stare at his brother and his dad as they visit the park to spend time as a family. Charles is working on his general education at a local community college and also works full time installing solar panels. Charles works to provide for his boys and wishes he could have his family reunite in the future. With being a single father, working full time, and attending school part time, Charles dreams to have the joy, love, and hope through the end of the year. all the help she can get to make this holiday season special for her little ones.
* * *
This youth is living in a foster home due to medical neglect, he has type II diabetes and is insulin dependent. He has been able to manage his own care and has been working hard to establish resources he will need when he turns 18yrs old next year. He enjoys hanging out with friends, but during this pandemic that has been difficult. He requested a gaming console, he understands they are expensive, but states that a gift card from Gamestop would at least help him towards one. He looks forward to a new normal and working towards achieving his academic goals. Please help this young man have a happy holidays and a memorable year to come.
We hope you find these tips helpful. Several organizations are already in the process of designing their holiday Adopt A Family programs. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of any assistance.
Have a safe and relaxing summer!