The stores are full of Halloween decorations and candy – but some of your donors are already knee deep into Christmas shopping. Today, we are interviewing one of our longtime donors in order to get a glimpse into their world during this magical time of the year, and learn how they plan for the holiday season. So if you are wondering how your donors think, and what can nonprofits do to maximize the number of people they support, read on! As a bonus, we will also include some hot gift trends to be expected this holiday season.
How long have you been donating in-kind goods?
For almost 10 years now. I have always favored meaningful in-kind gifts as opposed to cash gifts because I like to put some thought into what I am giving, and I also like to know where exactly my money is going.
What are your favorite in-kind programs to participate in?
It depends. During the pandemic, it was wonderful to be able to make an impact with a click of a button and not have to worry about going out to stores, wrapping and shipping. I love that the Roonga platform has a variety of drives to choose from. I would go in and select a cause that speaks to me and then pick the items that they need, such as pre-filled backpacks and hygiene items. Roonga is able to negotiate great quality products at affordable prices, and therefore letting us donors get more for our buck on their collection drives. Picking from a pre-curated list of items is great, and there were times that ‘fast and easy’ was exactly what I needed. But I must admit, though, that there is a special place in my heart for Adopt-A-Family programs. I love to read the story and connect to the specific family in a safe space without revealing my own personal information and knowing that they have been vetted and are in true need. And then, I truly enjoy being out and about shopping for specific individuals who will likely not have a christmas otherwise, and I have the opportunity to bring them some holiday cheer. I enjoy the process of searching for the right jacket, toy, or stocking stuffer for a particular child, and putting it all together for them. I find this to be very rewarding.
Where do you shop for Adopt-A-Family drives?
I go to a variety of stores depending on the desired items. For example: I find great pajamas, and loungewear deals at Costco. Costco also carries affordable children’s cozy fleeces and jackets. TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross are my go to’s for name brand clothes and shoes, baby and kid toys, art kits, and some home goods. These places also carry name brand fragrances and skincare. Be sure to check expiration dates, though! And of course, Target and Amazon carry just about anything in between. I tend to go to those last two when a specific item cannot be found in the off-price stores.
What are some gift trends you’re seeing this holiday season?
In the kids department I am seeing a great demand for pop-its. These are those little fidget toys made of rubber – and they come in all shapes and sizes. I even just found some at Dollar Tree. Rumor has it that it helps children focus during school and is also very popular among special needs children.
The other trend that is here to stay for now is the “relaxed and cozy” trend. The comfort trend. People are still very much at home, and it’ll be winter. A soft blanket, loungewear, slippers, and hoodies are still very much in demand. To go along with it, one can never go wrong with a mug and some hot cocoa mix, a candle with some bath salts, or some hygiene items. A cozy package makes a great gift!
DVDs (assuming you have confirmed that the recipient has a way of watching them) are also high on many wishlists. KIds would love animated or funny movies. Adults would enjoy movies or seasons of popular TV series.
Video gamers would love to purchase additional features in the game, or a pair of headphones. Gift cards continue to be highly popular: Target, Walmart, Bath and Body Works, Old Navy, or Amazon are all great choices.
What are your best tips for other donors like you?
- Shop all year long. If you know you will probably adopt a family, and you find a really good deal during one of your target runs, or if you find something good on sale or clearance, grab it while it lasts. If it’s a really good deal grab a few. Some stores will have semi-annual sales or occasional awesome deals, and I use those times to stock up on some items. I would stay away from buying things that need a specific size, because you don’t know who you will be shopping for. But things like bath and body items, candles, toys that can span across multiple age groups are all great to stock up on. Chances are that you could use those items or give them as gifts. I always have a few boxes in my closet or garage with gifts I found. Let me tell you.. That comes in really handy, and not just during the holidays!
- Talk to your local store managers. True story: I went to Costco last Tuesday and as I was walking I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw a large pile of Adidas sneakers for only $9. Yes, nine dollars. They did only have 3 or 4 sizes left, and I was lucky enough that my size was one of them. I grabbed one for a lady I am shopping for as well. When I spoke with one of the managers he let me in on a secret. He said that that store reduces prices on must go items on Tuesday mornings because on Mondays they go through everything that was left out from the weekend. So Tuesday is a really good day to go. Now, your store might be different, but if you know the people in that go-to store of yours (be it Costco, Marshalls or Walmart), find out about little things like that. They can save you a lot of money. And if you look on Youtube, there are several people who post “shop with me” and “shopping secrets” from top retailers across the country.
Do you have any suggestions on how to engage donors who tend to wait until the last minute?
Some donors do wait until it’s almost too late. I would recommend reaching out to last year’s donors as early as September with a series of communications building up to the event. Organizations should stay top of mind for their donor’s community. Personalized outreach would be ideal, but general emails could work too. I have received hand written notes from some organizations, as well as thank you notes from the recipients. Those things are memorable. Ideally, donors will provide a verbal agreement to sponsor X families in September or October, so that the organization can plan for it, even if the shopping happens later. The organization should check in with the donors on a regular basis, and use social media to highlight some stories and needs to recruit new donors. In the last few weeks leading to the holidays, I would recommend offering some simple options for donors to participate, such as purchasing gift cards or items that can be easily ordered online. Soem donors find ithard to commit to sponsoring a person with multiple gifts, but are happy to bring a wrapped toy or stocki
What advice would you give to nonprofit organizations who are looking to increase the number of donors and/or to increase engagement levels from existing donors?
Post your drive early! The more time we have to shop, the more people we can support. It’s as simple as that. This is especially true with the toy shortage that we are expecting this holiday season. Keep in mind that we have our own families and friends to shop for too. We have our kids’ teachers and colleagues. We buy in bulk where possible and are always on the hunt for good deals. My plan is to finish 80% of the shopping by the end of October, and leave the last few items for black Friday. By the end of November I would probably max out my holiday shopping, budget and energy.
Also, I highly recommend that you make your drive discoverable, not just for people in your city. You never know where donors like me will come from. I have shipped items all over the US, because I connect with a cause or an individual, regardless of where they are located.
Happy shopping to all!