How to Start a School Supply Drive for Your Community
About the Author
Amanda Swiontek has led several volunteer opportunities to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. Amanda’s leadership as a Volunteer Champion for Apple, Inc. helped the organization earn the Heart of Florida United Way Community Volunteer Excellence Award in 2016. She has also facilitated career development and resume writing courses for teen youth at the Boys & Girls Club Tupperware Brands Branch.
Have you ever thought of organizing a school supply drive for your community? If you have thought about it, you may have wondered where you should start. A school supplies drive may seem a bit overwhelming, but it can be achieved in several different ways. With a few tips and some planning, you can create an impactful event to benefit the youth of your local community.
Step One: Who Will Benefit?
Before you start organizing volunteers and planning the event, it is important to set goals. Start by determining the scope of your school supplies drive. First and foremost, you should determine who will benefit from the event. For example, it could be used to gather supplies for:
- An elementary school
- A middle school
- A high school
- A nonprofit organization
- A low-income school
- A specific neighborhood or geographic location
- A school dedicated to children with accessibility needs
If you want to narrow down the drive even further, you can select a specific grade or group within the above categories. In some cases, you may want to set your goal to benefit a group that you have a personal relationship or affiliation with. Another option is to conduct Internet research in order to find local nonprofit organizations partially focused on or dedicated to supporting the youth of your community.
If you decide to support a nonprofit organization, school or other specific community area, contact the organization. You may be able to partner with them before you host your drive. That way, you can speak with a community representative, youth manager or volunteer manager who can help you understand the donation needs for school supplies.
Once you have determined who will benefit from your school drive, you are ready to move to the planning phase.
Step Two: What’s Your Plan?
Now that you know who will benefit from you school supplies drive, you can begin organizing and planning the event. There are several layers to hosting a school supplies drive, so it is best to start planning at a basic level and then go into more detail as you near closer to the event date. Planning and organizing considerations include:
- Goals for the drive
- Location for the drive
- Date the drive will be held on
- Volunteer needs
- School supplies needed
- Potential sponsors
When deciding on goals, you may want to specify how many children will be assited by the event. If you are working with a school or specific organization, you may be able to collect a list of items needed. For example, instead of just asking for school supplies in general, you can specify the types of items that should be donated. Specific items may include:
Another school supplies drive strategy is to find a donor to supply large items such as backpacks. The drive can then be used to fill each backpack for a specific child. This strategy is a great fit if the event is scheduled for a specific class or group of children. Donors can purchase backpacks at wholesale rates for as little as $3.
It is important to consider that some people may want to contribute monetary donations for your school supplies drive. To cater to these types of donors, you can set up a list of items allocated for donations. Prices can be set individually or in groups. For example:
- $1.00 buys glue sticks for 20 children
- $5 buys paper for 5 children
- $20 buys a backpack filled with school supplies for 1 child
- $50 buys a 5 pack of pens for 100 children
After you have finished organizing and planning for your school supplies drive, your next step is to decide how you will promote your cause.
Step Three: Promote Your Cause
Word of Mouth
It is important to keep in mind that the school supplies drive is not just about getting people to donate – it is about motivating others to support your cause. How can you motivate others to volunteer, promote and donate? Members of the community must be able to understand and feel connected to the youth selected to benefit from the school supplies drive. To successfully promote the cause, you should be able to explain the need and the impact the event will have on the children. In addition, you should be able to share this information quickly and passionately with your volunteers, partners and potential donors.
One tactic that may help you give others a quick overview of what you are trying to achieve is to formulate an elevator speech. An elevator speech is meant to interest others quickly in your school supplies drive. The speech should be delivered in approximately 20-30 seconds, which is the typical amount of time spent in an elevator with someone else. Your elevator speech should be a brief, persuasive speech that communicates:
- Who will benefit from the school supplies drive
- What school supplies they need
- Your goal for the drive
If the person you are speaking with shows interest, you can quickly make him or her aware that you are looking for volunteers and/or donors – depending on your current needs. The elevator speech may open the door for a deeper conversation in the moment or it may persuade the listener to discuss the event or the drive goals in more detail at a future time. Before you go into more detail about your school supplies drive, you should determine that the person you are speaking with wants to learn more. After your elevator speech, you can ask for permission to further the conversation with questions such as:
- Do you have a couple of minutes for me to tell you more?
- Do you have a quick minute to discuss how you can support as a volunteer or donor?
- Are you interested in a quick overview of how to be a volunteer?
- Would you like some quick info on how you can donate?
It is ideal to share the details of your school supplies drive in the moment after giving your elevator speech. However, some people may not have time or prefer to connect later. It is a good practice to be gracious and respectful of the listener's time. If the person you are speaking with indicates they are not interested, you can simply thank them for their time and end the conversation. If the person shows interest in learning more later, follow up questions may include:
- When is the best time for me to give you a call?
- Can I grab your email address so I can send you more information?
- Would you like to meet for coffee/lunch in the next week so we can talk?
Whether you plan to promote your school supplies drive in person or by leaving information behind, takeaways are an effective way to promote your cause. A takeaway is typically a physical item that someone can keep so they can follow up to participate or to share with others. A takeaway may include:
- Business Cards
- Post cards
Takeaways should be brief, but much like your elevator speech, they should quickly inform and persuade others. Some information that should be included:
- The name of your school supplies drive
- Event date
- Event location
- Event time
- Who will benefit from the drive
- What supplies or monetary donations will be accepted
- Contact phone and email for volunteer interest
- Contact phone and email for donation interest
- Any deadlines for volunteer interest
- Website with more information for the event, school or organization
It may be helpful to create a takeaway such as a business card with your contact information and carry it with you. You never know when you will meet someone and strike up a conversation about your school supplies drive. Giving someone a business card specific to your drive is a tangible reminder of the event and potential partnership.
In consideration of those who heavily participate in the digital community, it is critical to promote your school supplies drive through electronic resources. You can use several resources to promote your event, which may include:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
- Meetup groups (Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com, etc.)
- Affiliated organization website
- Sponsor website
- School website
If you are using a flyer or pamphlet to promote your event, these takeaways can easily be transformed into PDF or integrated into a website to provide more information. In addition, you can look for other promotional ways to market your cause.
Driving awareness is key to having a successful school supplies drive. After you decide who will benefit from the school supplies drive, you can plan and focus on promoting your event. With focus and attention to detail, you can host a drive that will have a positive impact on the youth of your community.