One of the most powerful things you can do as a nonprofit organization is to engage directly with your constituents and show them how you’re bringing about positive change in their community and their lives.
That makes distribution events, where charities and nonprofits put donations into the hands of people in need, a mission-critical task for organizations that deal in product philanthropy. Making sure these events go smoothly has become even more important during the COVID-19 era as needs have increased exponentially while social distancing rules have made safety a top priority.
At Good360, we have a vested interest in helping to make your distribution events as successful as possible. A great many of the nonprofits that are registered with Good360 regularly host events where they distribute many of the donated products that they source from us.
We want you to make the most of these donations so that you can uplift your community in the most impactful way. Here are some of our best tips for running an effective distribution event:
Understand your overall goals
Before you give away a single item, you’ll want to understand what you’re trying to accomplish with any particular distribution event. Of course, you want to help people in need, warm some hearts and bring on a lot of smiles. But it’s best to have a strategic, measurable goal in mind.
Do you want to help 20 hurricane survivors outfit their new homes? Create a personal care package for 100 people going through cancer treatment? Assemble and give away COVID-19 personal protection kits with non-perishable food for 60 low-income families?
Of course, this goal should tie into your overall organizational mission and be something that is realistic for you to accomplish with the resources you have on hand.
Source high-quality product donations
Once you have a clear goal in mind, it’s time to consider the relevant products you’ll need. You can source in-kind donations from local businesses, private donors, volunteers and companies that give to charities. Focus on sourcing high-quality products that are useful, even if they’re used; no one wants to receive something that looks tattered or old.
At Good360, we make it easy to get access to a large variety of donated goods from major brands and retailers. Many of these companies won’t work with individual charities but they will work with us because we are able to pre-vet qualified nonprofits and move goods at scale. Most of these products are new, although some may be customer returns or very lightly used items.
Don’t go at it alone
A critical task will be to identify the people you want to assist. You may have a list of people or families that would qualify and can be invited to your event. Perhaps these are your regular constituents, people from your mailing list, or residents in your community.
In other cases, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster, you may want to reach out to partners who can help serve as case managers for your event and help you find the right people to help. At Good360, we frequently rely on NGOs that are intimately familiar with the specific needs on the ground so that we know we’re getting the right products to the right people at the right time.
Properly staff your event and don’t forget to document it!
During your distribution event, it’s important to have enough hands on deck to make sure the event runs smoothly. These kinds of donation events are excellent opportunities to engage your volunteer corps or your employees if you’re doing it as part of a company event.
And make sure you task someone or several people with documenting the event by taking pictures and/or videos, and getting reaction from the people you’re helping. This is an important part of telling your organization’s story, but one that often gets overlooked by nonprofits. For high-profile events, consider investing in hiring a professional photographer or videographer to capture some compelling visuals. All of this will help you later as you market your organization and look for funding.
Treat everyone with respect and dignity
The pandemic was an unprecedented public health catastrophe for everyone. It’s a good reminder that most folks could never have imagined the situation they currently find themselves in. So, remembering to maintain basic human dignity around these distribution events is key.
Be sure to train your staff and volunteers to treat everyone with the respect and dignity that they deserve. You also show your respect by doing your best to put on an amazing event with high-quality products to give out.
Remember that the pandemic is still with us
The pandemic hasn’t gone away. All in-person events should adhere to state and local regulations regarding COVID-19 safety. Wear masks and enforce social distancing rules as necessary.
However, many organizations have actually adapted quite well to the new normal. Some are finding that drive-through donations events are not only safer for everyone involved, but more efficient as well. Social distancing has also forced nonprofits to make events smaller and more intimate, allowing them to focus more on helping a select group of people.
Many organizations, including Good360, have embraced these changes to figure out new ways to help people in need. For example, we teamed up with Alianza de Futbol to turn their annual soccer tournaments into drive-through donation events to help a predominantly Latino population.
At each event, Good360 and Alianza distributed more than 10,000 household items, including personal hygiene products, masks, apparel, diapers and toys. All together, with the help of our generous corporate sponsors, Good360 gave away approximately 110,000 products with a retail value of nearly $2.3 million in partnership with Alianza.
We also partnered with the North Carolina Community Action Association (NCCAA) to provide needed goods for their signature donation events, dubbed “The Big Pop Up.” At these events, NCCAA erected a large tent where families could go from station to station and pick out the items that would be most useful for them.
“Our Big Pop Up events are a collaborative effort of sponsors, partners, and volunteers designed to de-stigmatize the need for residents to ask for a helping hand,” said executive director Sharon Goodson. “At each location, we saw much more demand from families than we could possibly supply. We had people waiting in line at 6 a.m. and we had to turn people away by 2 p.m. With so many families having been affected by this pandemic, we were thrilled to be able to put on these Pop Up events with the help of Good360 and our other sponsors.”
Good360’s mission is to transform lives by providing hope, dignity, and a sense of renewed possibility to individuals, families, and communities impacted by disasters or other challenging life circumstances who, without us, would struggle to find that hope. Learn more about them at https://good360.org/