It’s October, a time for drinking pumpkin spice lattes, donning your favorite sweater, picking apples, and enjoying the crisp autumn air and beautiful fall foliage. For many self-storage operators, fall is also the time of year to launch holiday charity plans. This might include food and toy drives, collecting school supplies, volunteering, or participating in a local festival.
Some operators have already put their plans into motion. Earlier this week, Guardian Storage, which operates 25 facilities in Colorado and Pennsylvania, announced it’s partnering up with One Warm Coat and Knock Knock Give a Sock to collect and distribute clean, gently worn coats and new socks. The company-wide donation drive runs through Nov. 30. It’s the first of many initiatives planned for the company’s new philanthropic program, Guardian Gives.
Shamrock Self Storage in Carmel, Ind., will sponsor “Holidays with Heroes,” an inaugural event spearheaded by the local police department. The program helps struggling families by providing gifts during the holiday season. Shamrock is donating $100 from each tenant lease signed during September and October. The company has already raised $4,100 for the program.
Both endeavors are great examples of how operators can give back. However, if you’ve never launched a donation drive or helped out a local charity, you might not know where to start. Here’s some guidance to ensure a successful venture.
What’s your mission? The first step is to determine what you hope to get from the experience. Is it as basic as “just to help out”? Or are you looking to create one or more partnerships with charitable organizations? Is it to market your brand in the community? Do you want to volunteer your time? Defining your mission will guide your efforts.
Choose a beneficiary. There are so many options! If you’re thinking about hosting a toy drive, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is one of the most well-known charities, but there are so many more that need your help. Visit a few local churches and ask what you can do. You can also find a charity to support via a Google search, your chamber of commerce, through fire and police personnel—who often launch their own holiday charity drives—social-service organizations such as the United Way, or even your local schools. It’s also important to speak to someone in charge at the organization about their parameters for donations or volunteering.
Have a plan. How long will your donation drive or fundraiser run? When will you deliver the items or funds to the charity? Who’ll make the delivery? Will the charity be prepared for your donation? Where will the donated items be stored? If you’re seeking cash donations, who’ll be in charge of keeping it safe? You should have a plan in place from conception to completion. This isn’t something you can do without preparation.
Market your event. Setting a box on your counter with “Donation” written on the front in marker won’t cut it. You have to tell people if you expect them to participate. This might include fliers posted around your facility, sending an e-mail to your current and past tenants, posting details on your social media channels, and talking to customers about what you’re doing. Also, be sure to send a press release to the local news stations and community newspapers. They’re always seeking feel-good stories to spotlight. If you can spend a few bucks on marketing, go for it.
Provide an incentive. If possible, offer an incentive for people to donate. The easiest way to do this is through a raffle. For example, any customer who drops off 10 canned goods is entered in a raffle to win a $50 gift card. You can also make the appeal by telling people about your charity. Ask the organization for a story or photos you can share with your audience. People are more likely to give to a cause if emotionally moved.
Add a partner. Sometimes sharing the responsibility—and expenses—can be beneficial. Partner with a friendly competitor, one of your vendors or another nearby business. The synergy can often lead to a better drive plus more exposure for both businesses.
Conduct a review. Once your donation drive or event has passed, it’s critical to take a look at what went well and where you can make improvements. Were you happy with the results? What did your customers think? What changes would improve a future drive or event?
Share your story. You should also share the results. Post photos of your donation haul on your website or social media. A unit stacked high of canned goods or donated toys says volumes! Send another press release to the media and attach photos. Write a blog and post it on your website. E-mail your tenant list. Also, be sure to share your outcome with the charity so members can announce it to their audience.
Of course, giving back to your community shouldn’t be limited to just the holidays. There are so many ways businesses can help local organizations year-round. Get online and find out what’s happening in your community and where you can assist.