With Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) just a week away, we have officially entered the holiday season. Over the next six weeks or so—which will fly by at warp speed—your agenda will likely include decorating your home, shopping, holiday cooking and, of course, many get-togethers with family and friends. For most of us, the holidays are hectic, but truly a festive time. It’s also the time of year when we’re the most thankful—for our family, jobs, good health and homes. Sadly, not everyone can count these blessings, so it’s incumbent on the many experiencing good fortune to help those who aren’t.
As in past years, the self-storage industry is helping those in need this holiday season. Over the past few weeks, many operators from around the world have announced their plans for clothing, food and toy drives for a variety of charities and organizations. For some operators, such as the United Kingdom’s Access Self Storage, holiday collections are an annual event. Now in its seventh year, the “holiday appeal” has collected nearly 3,000 gifts for charities.
However, for those new to the concept, launching a charity drive or volunteering can be intimidating. You may wonder which charity to work with and how to best market your efforts to your customers. Consider the following ideas.
- Food. This is probably one of the easiest drives to launch. Food banks and family shelters are always in need of pantry staples. The best way to get involved is to contact your local food bank, or community church or other place of worship and ask how you can help.
- Toys. While the U.S. Marine’s Toys for Tots campaign is far-reaching, it’s not the only toy drive in town. The Salvation Army, Make-A-Wish Foundation and Angel Tree, which benefits children who have at least one parent in prison, are also worthy causes. Operation Christmas Child uses shoeboxes to deliver donated presents to children around the world. You can also contact your local school, church, community center or hospital for their needs.
- The elderly. The holidays can be a lonely time for seniors who don’t have family nearby. Consider donating money or providing food that delivers meals to seniors who live alone. Better yet, volunteer your time, which costs you nothing! Get your crew together and head over to the local senior center and socialize. Bring along some board games, fun crafts or share your holiday cheer with a few well-rehearsed songs.
- Shelter pets. Much like seniors, our furry friends are often forgotten during the bustling season. You can launch a drive to collect pet food and supplies or simply make a cash donation on your own. If you’re an animal-love, take an afternoon off and give these furballs some attention.
- Our troops. There are a number of organizations that support our soldiers year-round. This is another easy drive you can set up in your office. Add a box to collect personal hygiene products, candy and other small non-perishable snacks. Or simply make a cash donation to the charity of your choice.
Once you have an idea, it’s time to tell everyone about it. If you’re collecting donations, set up a box in your office, then post signs around the property to let your customers know about your campaign. Also, be sure to send an e-mail to your current and past customers. Consider offering a small token, such as $5 off the monthly rent in December to anyone who donates 20 cans of food. Or entice people to donate toys by holding a drawing. For example, for every toy or game donation, the person’s name is entered into a raffle for a prize, such as a gift card, cash or a free month of rent.
This is also the time to flex your social media muscles. Post information about your collection efforts regularly on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to include details about what you’re seeking and when donations can be made at your storage facility.
Whether you hold a donation drive, volunteer your time, provide food to a local pantry or simply offer a cash donation to a worthy charity, be a positive part of the season of giving. Share your advice for holiday drives by posting a comment below or on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s biggest online community.