More Food, More Coats, More Giving

How to get a better return on your company’s charitable efforts.  YOU alone and your one jacket CAN make a difference.

Driving to work this last month, with temperatures in the high 20’s some mornings, I’ve homeless_in_winterseen less homeless at the park downtown. The folks I have seen look as uncomfortable as Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story. Layers and layers of mismatched clothing; I wonder how they even move. Really, I wonder how they just survive. This reminds me that I have jackets in my closet that are in perfect condition, out of style, not being worn.

Where do I drop these off again?

When the Iraq War was in full swing and so many men and women were facing multiple tours of duty, many back-to-back, I wanted to do something that would go directly into a soldier’s hands, but I didn’t know what or how. Reno is not a military town. I did some Google searches, couldn’t find what I was looking for and ended up putting together my own Gift for the Soldiers Campaign for three years in a row. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time, but I know my goal wasn’t even close to what we were able to accomplish.

With help from good friends, neighbors, co-workers and the Reno community, we sent handmade cards from school kids and letters from adults, as well as care packages (remember that at first they didn’t even have adequate provisions of soap, lip balm, and feminine products?). I think we reached over 3,000 soldiers in Iraq and later, Afghanistan.

Collecting the stuff was easier than getting it into their hands. I reached out to a buddy who is career military — he had to go through his channels to locate a person on-site that would take responsibility for all these packages coming from Reno.  It was a lot of work on his part to find a “guy” on all the bases, to make sure they didn’t sit in some warehouse. What if I hadn’t had a willing guy to begin with?

This was the hardest part of the entire project … making sure the right people got the “goods” which I think is real fear for many people who donate.

It’s really about trust

It was a humbling and powerful experience. It was also shocking in some ways. Just like me, there were so many people wanting to give thanks, wanting to help, but they didn’t know how. Or they didn’t trust that their money, their note, their candy bars would actually get to the soldier.

I was a normal person, like their neighbor next door, doing something that they considered extraordinary. I made it easy by telling them exactly what I was doing, even accepting stamps instead of money for postage. (Honestly, I’m still using up stamps from those campaigns, as it was easier to go to the post office and write them my own check, instead of putting $50 of first class stamps on a box). And afterwards, I sent out emails that I received from the soldiers to the volunteers who had helped. So they absolutely KNEW that their efforts were received. Today, how would you send a care package to the military?

Make it easy
My point is, I know I’m not the only one who wants to help the less fortunate, but I’m too busy (uh, make that “too lazy” most of the time) to put a stamp on an envelope or figure out where I drop off a can of soup. I also want to know that my donation is for an organization that cares, one with a human face.

So many casinos that my company Raving works with give an immense amount to their communities and raise thousands of dollars each year. Whatever business you are in, if you are in the position to collect food, money or clothing for folks in need this Holiday season, here are a few tips from the lazy gal who wants to help, but you gotta make it easy for me:

1. No brainer, small donations, multiple transactions. “Would you like to round-up your bill to the nearest dollar and donate the change to this charity?” Safeway grocery stores do this and no matter if it is 45 cents or 10 cents, it’s efficient and feels good. Think of your retail outlets on your property. Think of the soda machine in your lobby … where folks may get change. For casinos, your customers might not feel like waiting in line at the cashier and cashing in that 50 cent slot ticket. Have bins for patrons to drop in their TITO voucher.

2. I’ll come to you. I always have good intentions, but I have brain fade as soon as I get home and forget to put that can of food or that jacket in my car. The post office makes it pretty easy. During the NALC Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive, all citizens need to do is place a box or can of non-perishable food next to their mailbox before their letter carrier delivers mail every second Saturday in May. Note: mailbox is steps away from my front door – even I can handle that. Set up multiple locations for your donation drive (besides your company location) at partnering businesses throughout your community — make it so convenient that there is no excuse for Uncle Billys like me.

3. Remind me YET again. You might be thinking that I have early onset memory loss. Believe me, the calendar reminder on my cell phone saved my arse a few dozen times. If you communicate with customers via email, include an “add this to my Outlook calendar” feature or “text me to remind me” opt-in with your marketing message.

(I just added two events to my calendar — Operation Sweaters for Veterans, being collected by Walton’s Funeral Homes and the 21st Annual Share Your Christmas Drive-By Food Drive through our local Channel 2 News agency, where last year they collected 146,399 lbs of food, which meant 97,599 meals. I’m going to follow through this year. I really, really am).

4. Well … did my donation help? It’s not patting yourself on the back and saying how wonderful your business is for going through the effort. You NEED to let your employees and customers know where their donation went and do a story about the actual folks they helped. That’s why people are more compelled to “adopt a child” or “buy a goat for a village,” because they can visualize the recipient. They need to hear the end of the story. Get personal when folks drop off donations too … be the face of your organization, make them feel good about their “gift” no matter how small.

Folks, I can tell you from my inconsistent community service that I have gotten so much more out of giving than probably the recipients. Help folks like me who have good intentions, but are too disorganized to follow through. Be even more successful this year with your current efforts to help your community and your cause by making it easy.

And don’t be intimidated. Who cares if you only get a limited response? One person can can create a landslide of generosity and you’ll be so surprised how by you taking the first step, people will be grateful that you are doing the leg work (by just taking that box of food down to the shelter … because they don’t know where the shelter is).

And remember ONE CAN, ONE COAT, will make a difference to someone who needs it.

PS – I remembered (thanks to Outlook) to drop off a sweater at Walton’s funeral home today. Although Jim said that a homeless vet wouldn’t wear his outdated, black and white, Cosby-looking sweater, no matter how cold he was.  It was weird though … I mean, how many times do you go to a funeral home by choice? The sign said that they keep the door locked to protect privacy of the families in mourning. When I knocked on the door a man in a suit answered and I asked if they were still accepting sweaters. The dude that answered said, “From you, yes,” and then shut the door. I guess I was expecting some interaction like #4. I ended up feeling kinda silly.

Originally published by Raving Consulting Company

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2 Responses to More Food, More Coats, More Giving

  1. Tracey says:

    I keep Northern Nevada Food Bank in my list of bills to be paid on my banking website. People need to eat every day, not just during the Holidays. I try to donate every month. Seeing the bill to pay also reminds me to be grateful that there’s always food on my table and a roof over my head. I agree, giving makes us feel good and these are great ideas for the lazy giver.

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