The holidays are joyous for most people, but it can be extremely stressful for nonprofits – identifying the right toys/gifts, procuring them, and distributing them in time. Perhaps you currently run a toy drive to collect gifts but wish you provided more customized items. Or perhaps you coordinate an adopt-a-family program but dread the amount of work it will take. In this Inside In-Kind post, we review 3 options for holiday campaigns and how recent technology improvements can help streamline your programs:
- Collection Drives
- Adopt-a-Family (or Individual) Programs
- Cash Campaigns
Toy Donation Drives
Toy collection drives (also known as donation drives) occur when a nonprofit provides a wishlist of items, based on the latest toy trends or needs of the clients. This list is shared with potential donors, and items are (hopefully!) purchased, collected, and distributed to those designated by the nonprofit. As it can be challenging to match individual needs with this type of toy drive, there may be a mismatch between the gifts requested and the items desired by the clients. It is not uncommon to receive a lot of items for one age group, and fewer items for another age group. Gifts for teens and infants are typically under-represented in traditional toy donation drives.
These drives can be be entirely offline, virtual, or both. Let’s look at what each of those entails.
Traditional Toy Drive
The traditional toy drive consists of a series of collection barrels or boxes distributed throughout a community for donors to drop toys into. Nonprofits print a list of desired items that are attached to the box and/or distribute a copy of a list – posting them up in store windows or and emailing it to donors. Donors purchase and drop off the items daily during the collection window in the designated locations. The nonprofits then collect the toys from these disparate locations and transport them to their storage/distribution location. For nonprofits, there is a lot of time and effort required for collecting, counting, inventorying, storing, and then finally distributing toys in this manner. In addition, one of the greatest drawbacks of this collection method is the lack of control over the quality, types and quantities of items donated.
Virtual Toy Drive
In virtual toy drives, nonprofits set up a page on a platform with a specific list of toys from which the donors can purchase. The link for the page is shared with donors via email, social media, and other means (such as bar code printed on publicly placed posters). This program is generally easier to run, as all purchased items are stored by the vendor until the end of the collection period. These are all delivered at one time to the nonprofits’ desired delivery location, and the items arrive ready for packing or distribution.
The good news with online drives is that they can really help to streamline the collections – a pre-generated list focuses donors on the most requested items and deters them from purchasing gifts that may not be ideal or well-liked. The gifts are delivered directly to the nonprofit, pre-sorted, and accounted for. One of the drawbacks with online drives, however, is the delivery time required. It may be necessary to shorten the collection time to account for the delivery time of the toys, especially given the busy holiday season.
Here is an an example of an online toy drive run on the Roonga platform: https://www.roonga.com/stuffthesled2021
In adopt-a-family (or adopt-a-person) programs, a wishlist is created for a family or an individual, and donors can select for whom they want to adopt/purchase gifts. The greatest benefit of adopt-a-family programs is the ability to personalize the gifts and ensure that what’s provided matches what’s needed/requested. Adopt-a-family programs have evolved greatly over the last few years. They have historically required a significant amount of resources, but in recent years, more tools have become available to simplify and streamline these programs.
Traditional Adopt-a-Family Programs
In the traditional spreadsheet approach, a lot of manual work is required. This includes collecting specific wishlists, verifying and updating this information, recruiting donors and their sponsorship preferences, and then finally matching donors with families/individuals. Once matched, there is yet another process for tracking the dropoff of gifts and distributing them to clients and/or social workers. Tools for collecting this data have included paper forms, online forms, spreadsheets, and custom modifications to third party software. Depending on how many families the organization is working with, there can be a lot of data to collect and track, which can result in mistakes and disconnects along the way. With this approach, even with the very best system in place, the amount of time required to run a drive like this is massive.
Streamlined Adopt-a-Family Programs
In the last couple of years, new technology options have become available to streamline the data collection and matching process on an online platform. For example, Roonga’s adopt-a-family program provides tools for the nonprofit staff or third-party social workers to directly submit wishlists and for donors to self-select who they want to adopt. The reduction in the manual workload cannot be understated, and the improvement in the accuracy and completeness of the wishlists is also a huge benefit. The data provided makes it easy to ensure all clients’ wishlists’ are accounted for. In addition, the donors greatly value the ability to select their own families or individuals, resulting in a stronger connection to the cause. In fact, many donors have reported adopting more families than they initially intended, especially when the family stories are compelling. Here is an example of an adopt-a-family on the Roonga platform: https://www.roonga.com/bwc2021aaf
Cash campaigns are the easiest to run and administer. This type of programming is very popular all year round for nonprofits. Although this is an ‘easy’ way for donors to contribute and for nonprofits to manage the funds, cash campaigns provide the weakest connection to donors – the process is impersonal and the use is often non-specific. It can also create a large workload for the nonprofit, especially if the nonprofit still needs to purchase items and distribute them. The organization would still need to research vendors and products, make the purchase, and then distribute the supplies. One of the key benefits, however, is that the cash received can go towards expenses like rent, utility bills, etc (which donation drives typically do not handle) – and they are more flexible that donation drives where you can receive items that may no longer be needed. Companies like Fundly, GoFundMe and Classy are great candidates for running cash campaigns.
Planning Your Holiday Donation Drive
If you are running a holiday program, it is essential to start your planning early. Will your clients be best served by a toy donation drive, and adopt-a-family/person drive, or a cash drive? Most organizations have historically picked one type of campaign, but it doesn’t hurt to step back and evaluate which type of holiday donation drive would work best as conditions change. Each of these different types of campaigns has its advantages and disadvantages, but with advances in technology, there are now tools to help nonprofits maximize their efforts without the high stress and resources typically required.
If you would like to discuss your holiday needs, we are happy to help! Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about your program and specific needs. Regardless of your program plans, we here at Roonga wish you a successful holiday season!