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DIY Donations: How to Start A Local Charity Drive

November 2, 2021

A veteran charity-drive organizer shares tips on starting your own fundraiser


For Stefani Scott, being charitable isn’t just a habit — it’s a way of life. The 33-year-old real estate agent, who lives in Bingham Farms, has been spearheading charity drives for organizations from the Humane Society and food banks to women’s shelters and more since she was in high school. “My entire purpose for doing all of this is to do my part in the world and community and bring awareness [to different causes],” she says.

Scott, whose family and friends have dubbed her “the Donation Queen,” is clearly a pro when it comes to leading charity drives. She estimates that she helps five to 10 organizations every year, some of which have raised more than $10,000 in donations thanks to her efforts. And she says it’s not as hard as you may think to follow in her foot-steps. “Charity drives seem scary and intimidating at first, but I always remind myself that if I only deliver one box of crayons, it’s better than none at all,” she says. “Even just one item is a success.” Here, her top tips for starting your own drive.

DIY Donations: How to start a local Charity DriveImage courtesy of Stefani Scott

Stefanie Scott’s friends and family have dubbed her “The Donation Queen”.

Target your cause

What are you passionate about? Who do you want to help? Where do you see the most need, either in your community or beyond? Pinpointing the answers to those questions is “the first step to creating a successful charity drive,” says Scott, who’s personally drawn to organizations that help children. “Everyone should pick what speaks to them.”

Pick an organization

Once you’ve settled on a cause, start searching for a specific organization to support. If you’re passionate about animal welfare, for example, research nonprofits that help stray pets. “Since it’s a charity drive, you’ll be hands-on, so it’s best to find something local,” says Scott, who recommends using a site like charitynavigator.org to make sure your preferred organization is legit and reputable. Once you’ve picked your nonprofit, find a contact person there. “I’ve found that having one, designated person at the organization is essential to making any charity drive a success,” says Scott. “Nothing will get lost in communication, and you have that opportunity to build a good relationship for other drives in the future.”

“Charity drives seem intimidating at first, but I remind myself that if I only deliver one box of crayons, it’s better than none at all.”

Narrow down the need

Most organizations appreciate donations year-round, but certain times require more supplies than others. For example, donations are especially in-demand during the holidays, but by summertime, resources tend to run low. “Most organizations tell me that their biggest need is June and July,” Scott says. Beyond the season, you’ll need to figure out what supplies your nonprofit needs. “People don’t always need what we assume they do,” says Scott, noting that the largest need for the homeless population is socks and underwear, whereas kids in foster care they move frequently. Check with your designated contact person before making your wish list.

DIY Donations: How to Start a Local Charity Drive

A flyer created for one of Stefani’s local charitable projects.

Get the word out

Advertising your drive is key — and very simple, thanks to various apps that let you design a handbill on your smartphone (Scott recommends Flyer Maker). “They have the templates ready to go, so all you have to do is plug in the information and save it, then post it or print it out,” she says, adding that she prefers blasting the info on social media or via email and text messages. Still, don’t underestimate the power of paper: “Advertising at a place you frequent, like the grocery store, a local boutique or even your gym can also be an effective way to get the word out,” she says, adding that asking your network can yield results, too. “I have actually hit up my dentist … and it worked. Reach out to everyone you know, everywhere you go. People want to do the right thing but don’t always know how.”

Make donating convenient

Sure, people like to help those in need but shopping for goods in person may not be feasible. To streamline the donation process, Scott creates an Amazon Wish List, which allows people to order items that ship directly to her house, then shares the direct link “everywhere I can,” including on her Facebook page, and in her Instagram bio, email blasts, and more. “People are more apt to respond when things are easy and convenient,” she says.

Stay organized

Once the supplies are in your hands, you’ll need a system to organize them. Scott suggests printing out a list of what’s been requested and highlighting items as they arrive. “When I did Adopt A Family last year for 80-plus families, we organized everything by category, gender and size,” she says. “That way, I was able to realize two shipments of coats were missing, and I knew which sizes needed to be purchased. It sounds tedious, but it’s absolutely necessary.” Scott also uses her master list to keep track of who sent what, which makes it easier when it’s time to send thank-you notes (yes, she somehow makes time for that, too!).

Map out your delivery in advance

Well before your drive wraps up, figure out when and how you’re going to get the goods from Point A to Point B. Will the organization you’re collecting for pick them up? If you have to deliver the supplies yourself, will they fit in your car, or do you need to call in reinforcements? If the latter is true, Scott recommends renting a truck from Home Depot. And, of course, ask your contact person about the best day and time to deliver your donations.


Looking for worthy charitable organizations to donate to or get involved with? Check out our 2020 Give Back Guide and our 2021 Give Back Guide.

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