From time to time, we’ll receive a frantic call the morning of a corporate packing event asking where their supplies are. The food is on its way, and their employees are arriving shortly. But where are the supplies? Sometimes, it’s because the warehouse staff didn’t hand the shipment off to the event contact – other times, there was an internal disconnect about where the supplies are being held. Worse yet, we had one event last year where the shipment appeared to have been delivered on time – except the trucking company had delivered it to a different company in the same city – the event coordinator saw that the shipment was delivered but didn’t actually check to see it was physically received.
Most events go off without a hitch – but there are also many common reasons why corporate packing events go astray. With proper planning, it’s possible to minimize the risks to ensure a successful event. Here are our tips after observing many events over the last few years:
- Build time in the schedule for receiving the supplies early. While this is not always possible due to storage constraints, it’s ideal to receive the supplies about 2 weeks before the event. This provides ample time in case there are delivery issues or delays on the road. More importantly, there is enough time to receive, review, and request missing goods or replacements for damaged goods.
- Verify that the shipment has been physically received. Although this may seem obvious and unnecessary, a simple call to your warehouse or facility contacts to verify receipt of the goods can alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress later. As we alluded to earlier, there have been situations where a tracking link may indicate a shipment has been delivered when it hasn’t. It’s better safe than sorry.
- Inventory supplies in a timely manner when they arrive – certainly before the event! Once the shipment has arrived, we recommend taking a picture of the shipment as it is before the boxes are opened and then conducting a quick inventory of the items. There are several important reasons for this.
- Vendors only provide a limited window to remedy issues (providing missing items or replacing damaged ones), sometimes as little as 2 days from the receipt date to raise any issues. Timeliness is key in ensuring that issues are addressed quickly.
- If there are damaged goods, the pictures are helpful for the vendor to see the condition of the boxes as they were when they arrived. The pictures are also helpful to triage with a trucking/delivery company as needed. (We had one delivery last year where the trucking company “reorganized” the pallets and left a few boxes accidentally on a dock undelivered.)
- It is very important to verify that everything was received and in good condition before volunteers start packing. It’s not uncommon for us to hear after an event that there weren’t enough supplies to complete all the kits/packs. Sure, vendors make mistakes and they may have missed some items – however, more common than not, supplies either disappear during the packing process, or volunteers have not followed instructions carefully (e.g., adding an extra spiral notebook to a backpack by accident). By verifying that you have everything before the event, you’ll be able to narrow down the problems and focus on the likely scenarios leading to the incomplete packs.
- Plan enough tasks for the length of the event. The actual packing of supplies is a fairly quick process – when we’ve worked with technology companies, we’ve heard of the engineers streamlining and optimizing the process to make them as efficient as possible, making the packing process even faster. If the company’s budget is not large, they may want to incorporate other aspects to the event. Here are some common additions:
- Starting the event with a presentation from the nonprofit organization – this allows you to directly meet the representatives from the company and even their staff
- Lunch/snacks for the participants – the company will usually sponsor a lunch and other food for the volunteers – it may be helpful for the meal portion to be before or after the packing event rather than occuring in parallel.
- During the packing event itself, you may want to add additional steps to the process – such as involving the volunteers in the setup of the assembly line, adding a personal touch (see next point), or volunteering a few people for “quality assurance” (double checking that the kits have only the right number of each item packed). The cleanup and repacking can even be considered part of the event, as the kits or backpacks will need to be packed up for transportation to their final location.
- Add a personal touch – Corporate projects are typically coordinated on site (in the office), and there is no opportunity for the volunteers to engage with your client recipients (even if it were allowed). However, projects that provide the opportunity for a personal touch can be more meaningful for the volunteers – examples include adding cards of encouragement for students starting school or decorating the bags that hygiene supplies are placed in. On the receiving end, your clients will also get a sense of who the people are packing the supplies for them. Even though there is a fair bit of physical distance between the packing event and the use of the items, the personal touch helps bring each side closer with a tangible, personal touch.
Hopefully, these tips can help you or your contact streamline the planning and ensure a successful, fulfilling packing day. If you have additional suggestions or thoughts about these recommendations, feel free to reach out to us here.