Poverty is hard to explain to kids who always know where “home” is and what’s for dinner. One symptom of hardship is feeling cold in the winter months. When I talk with my kids about deprivation and scarcity, I’ve found this is easier for them to understand, because everyone knows the feeling of being cold. This is the perfect opportunity to broach the topic of supporting your own community by holding a coat drive to help keep others warm.
You don’t need to be an expert event planner to hold your own coat drive. All it takes are a few household supplies, a charity to distribute the goods, and the willingness to drum up support.
Here are a few quick steps you can take to hold your own coat or clothing drive, ensuring a few more people in your area have the layers they need this winter.
Start With a Date
First, put your event on the calendar. Most coat drives cover a few days so benevolent neighbors have time to realize the need and act. Establishing a date is also the best way to turn your vision into reality.
Choose a Charity
Don’t go into a collection campaign without first determining a distribution outlet. It’s best to partner with a charity for the donation instead of trying to allocate the coats yourself. Institutions are a trusted part of your community and appreciate you navigating the proper channels by contacting them first. Most will gladly accept your collected coats and can get them into the hands of families who benefit most. Call to explain your plan, and ask them for any extra tips.
Next, schedule your coat drive with One Warm Coat, an online organization that helps people like you and your family set up successful donation campaigns. Browse their site for details on why warm coats are so important and how surprisingly widespread the need is. Most civic-minded families want to register their event first, but this should be the third step after you’ve hashed out some details.
Assemble a Team
You can’t hold a coat drive all alone! Tell your neighbors about the idea, ask for support, and together decide on a good drop point. This may be the front yard of someone who is home during the days or a worker who has accrued enough leave to take a few philanthropic days off. Appoint a skilled social media manager or writer for correspondence and public relations. You may want to create a calendar on an online scheduler, like Doodle, to see when people are available to help.
Crafty team members will especially enjoy this next part. Using poster board, markers, paint, and stickers, make signs to inform passersby.
Keep your signs simple and sweet (two words max) to quickly get your message across without distracting drivers and bikers.
Use arrows to direct donors to your drop point. Finally, be sure to have signs (or a qualified adult) ready to show drivers away from the area safely.
Drum up Support
Now have your team members tell the world of your venture, especially via social media. Include important frequently asked questions like what, when, where, and, most importantly, why. When I hosted a coat and clothing drive this fall, our posts included a statistic from the One Warm Coat website and a powerful quote from someone who had received a free coat.
Have Fun With It
Finally, enjoy the experience! As you collect coats, tell donors where their gently loved items are headed and give them other ways to support the community.
Offer up nuggets of inspiration, like where you got the idea to do a coat drive, why a drive is uniquely effective, and whether you’ll do another. Give donors a receipt for their gift, and tell them ‘thank you’ from families who may never get to thank them in person.
Having inadequate clothing isn’t just uncomfortable—it also means kids must sit out during recess and after-school outdoor play. A coat collection campaign is the perfect way to make a positive difference today, warming the bodies and hearts of those in your neighborhood.
What other coat drive ideas do you recommend? Tweet your advice to @TomsofMaine!
Image source: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.