Every year Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier, with holiday decorations hung up right after Halloween and Christmas music piped into stores and restaurants before Thanksgiving. And this year it seems that holiday food and clothing drives arrived earlier than ever having multiplied to extraordinary proportions. For good reason, the numbers of hungry and homeless have swelled to record numbers.
Yet, as I walk down the main street of my town I see collection bins almost on every street corner or in front of every business and I find myself pondering how many times will I continue to buy more bags of cans and cereal boxes, or dig up more warm coats to drop off in the bins?
It is impressive to see so many businesses and organizations supporting the local food pantries and homeless shelters. Presumably the benefit of so many bins is to increase public awareness resulting in an increase in average contributions and also to attract new givers. But will putting out a collection bins in front of every store and in the halls of every organization reach a saturation point where "givers" will reach "bin burnout"?
What this notion of "bin burnout" suggests is that businesses are going to need more creative strategies for attracting donations for their holiday drives. By brainstorming for new ideas, businesses both large and small can engage and inspire employees, customers and clients in making a difference this holiday season.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Matching programs: Stop and Shop Supermarket Company hopes to raise an additional $1 million dollars for local hunger relief organizations through Food for Friends, where they will match the first $500 raised by each store.
Buy an extra: Borders Books in Kingston, Rhode Island is asking customers at the register if they would like to purchase a book, craft kit or stuffed panda to donate to an Arc family in need.
Send an inspiring gift: Mediaspace Solutions, a Norwalk, Conn-based newspaper and online advertising service has a program called Giving Thanks where they send out food-drive starter kits to clients and partners around the country, instead fo the usual holiday gifts. The starter kits included items, such as stuffing, dried cranberries, pumpkin bread mix and hot chocolate, with the hope that recipient would add their own donations. The agency also compiled and included a list of local food banks compiled through its newspaper partners.
Creative engagement and partnering: Last year, General Mills used its marketing expertise to help hunger. By partnering with the tv show, NBC's "The Biggest Loser" they involved viewers a "Pound For Pound Challenge." For every pound that was pledged to lose, General Mills funded one pound of groceries to a food bank.
Host a competition:In Des Moines, Iowa, the Goodrell School is hosting a food drive competition. The class with the most donations win a free breakfast, donated by Burger King.
Last year a Silicon Valley high tech firm hosted a collected food tower competition amongst it's divisions.
Host something fun and educational:
Customers who donated food at a furniture store in South Carolina, got to participate in a free bow making and gift wrapping workshop.
KFOG radio station, in the San Francisco Bay Area is hosting a benefit concert to benefit the Marine's Toys for Tots.
Give a discount or extra service. In my local area, stores and services are offering discounts or free serices to customers when they bring in food, clothing or toys.
Toyota in the Bay Area is offering a $20.00 discount towards a customers next service for a new unwrapped toy for the Toys for Tots Program.
Okay not a business-but a great idea. A library district runs a "Food for No Fines" food drive in Adams County, Colorado.
Raise money instead-did you know that for every dollar donated to a food bank as much as $12.00 of food can be be bought or made.
Several large high tech corporations in Silicon Valley such as: Applied Materials, Fairchild SemiConductor, PG&E and others, are sponsors of the annual Turkey Trot in San Jose, supporting the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Proceeds from KFOG Radio's "Live from the Archives 16" CD's benefit the 7 Bay Area Food Banks.
Stop and think what more you can do with your holiday drives. It will give people more reason and more opportunity to donate to these very needy causes.