Are you in the middle of planning your adopt-a-family holiday program? Or perhaps considering starting one? In this month’s Inside In-Kind, we highlight two nonprofits’ holiday Adopt-a-Family programs. We will explore who they are, what they do, and how they run their programs. Read on to learn some tips and tricks they are using to streamline their processes and maximize their efforts.
Bill Wilson Center’s Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program
Bill Wilson Center’s mission is to serve youth and families through counseling, housing, education, and advocacy. They provide services to more than 5,000 children, youth, young adults, and families in Santa Clara County, California. BWC has run numerous successful programs on the Roonga website over the last several years. These campaigns have ranged from collection drives for critical goods such as cleaning products, hygiene items, and school supplies to their annual holiday adopt-a-family program.
Before Roonga, the BWC team was collecting family wishlists using paper forms, exchanging information back and forth via email with case managers and social workers, recruiting donors using yet another form, and manually matching families with donors via a large Excel spreadsheet. They were managing 1,000 individual wishlists using a completely manual process, where their staff was working 12-14 hour days leading up to the holidays. A few years ago, Roonga started working with BWC. After detailed meetings and discussions, Roonga developed its initial prototype targeting BWC’s pain points, and then developed a more full-fledged platform the following year.
After several years, BWC’s Adopt-a-Family holiday program (https://www.roonga.com/bwc2021aaf) has grown significantly. In their 2021 holiday season, they fulfilled the wishlists for 3,000 individuals. All of these families were identified by either BWC case managers or the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services as truly in need.
Why was this program so successful, and how were they able to grow their program to support 3,000 wishlists last year? A large part of the program’s success is due to the personal stories that the social workers provide for many of these children and families. The most compelling family stories get snatched up quickly – and donors find themselves wanting to help more children and families. Below are a few examples of personal, yet anonymous stories from this campaign.
MONICA – This is a non-intact family. Children (3 and 16) were brought into the system due to severe DV, substance use, and mental health. Father is Veteran who used to serve in Afghanistan. Parents share the custody of the children. Three year old boy is autistic and likes cars, trains, airplane.
SABRINA – The mother and father struggled with homelessness and substance abuse problems in the past. They are now both drug-free and living in a family shelter. The father is working full time to try to support the family and the mother is caring for the child and focusing on her treatment. Both parents are looking forward to finding permanent housing and providing a safe and stable life for the child.
DILDAR – Dildar is truly one of a kind. Dildar comes from a country overseas as a refugee and is hoping to make a better life for himself. This Christmas will be Dildar’s first Christmas away from all his family and although he is grateful to live in this country he expresses how sad he is to be away from what he’s known his whole life. Dildar is very charismatic and incredibly funny, his sense of humor definitely will light up your day. He is very into working out, eating healthy, and has been trying to make new friends.
Compelling stories can make all the difference in your adopt-a-family programs. We have seen first hand how quickly donors are willing to help when they can read for themselves and select the families they would like to sponsor. So if there is one takeaway from Bill Wilson Center’s success, it’s the importance of providing personal stories that resonate with your donors.
CASA of Central Texas’ Holiday Gift Drive
CASA of Central Texas, Inc. provides valuable volunteer advocacy for abused children in Central Texas. CASA volunteers serve as the “eyes and ears” for the judges in child welfare cases. This includes researching each child’s situation and making objective recommendations to help them reclaim their childhoods from abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers are frequently the only stable presence in these children’s lives.
Roonga spoke with Eloise Hudson, a 15-year CASA employee, who runs their annual holiday Adopt-a-Family program and has done so for many years. When Eloise took over the Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program, all of the work was done manually. She would use cut star shapes to hang on a tree, one for each of the 70 children. She wrote the child’s name and their requested gifts on the star. Donors would stop by, select a star, and leave. There was no way to track who took the star, and whether they would return the gifts. Gradually, however, the program grew. By the time it got to 270 children, Eloise was using spreadsheets to manage donors and recipients, but it was confusing and time-consuming, and she was debating whether to limit the number of children because of the time required.
Right around that time, Eloise received an email from Roonga at the start of the pandemic. Roonga’s contact-free platform would allow their Adopt-a-Family Program to continue when many others around the country suspended theirs. Fast forward to today… After running their holiday program on Roonga the past 2 years, donors report that the process has been the best run and easiest to use compared to previous years. And last holiday season, Eloise was able to serve an astounding 670 children! And even better – from CASA’s location in central Texas, they recruited donors as far away as Colorado, which never could have happened before Roonga.
So how has Eloise been able to expand her program so quickly? Here are a few tips based on her experience:
- Eloise encourages the wishlist submitters to write a detailed description of the child, much like Bill Wilson Center. Donors enjoy reading about the recipients, whose personal details are kept anonymous. Without revealing their identity, their stories can be shared to help the donors select a child with whom they connect.
- Detailed descriptions of toys and gift items are very important, and sometimes she will even include a link to an unusual or hard-to-find item to make it easy for the donors to match exactly what the child has asked for. The most special part for the children who get these gifts is the fact that they are getting exactly what they want and need.
- Eloise has successfully leveraged social media to promote her program and recommends letting the public know how many children or persons you have, and how many are left as the program continues. In her social media post, she selects an available profile and encourages someone to choose that child or find another. Here is an example from a previous program:
When the program is in motion, Eloise documents and tracks all aspects of her holiday gift drve. Roonga’s reports provide updates on the the number of recipients and see who still needs to be adopted. When it comes time to review the success of the program and plan for the following year, Eloise runs a report that allows her to calculate the total value of the in-kind goods, which is used to justify the cost of the platform. Eloise has been very pleased with the transition to the Roonga Adopt-a-Family Platform and is looking forward to the next holiday season to serve more children than ever. Keep an eye on Roonga’s drives page to see this year’s Holiday Adopt-a-Family Gift Drive launch again!
Need Help with your Holiday Drive?
The holidays are quickly approaching! If you are planning your holiday adopt-a-family program, reach out to us to learn how you can streamline your processes, improve your donor relationships, and serve more clients at the same time! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.