There are many reasons a school-supply drive is an effective method of community outreach. To fully engage in the classroom, students in impoverished areas need basic supplies that a school drive can provide. Also, a drive gives teachers who spend their own money on supplies much-appreciated outside help. If you are on your local PTO board, you have a golden opportunity to fill others’ needs with a targeted and professional event. If you would like to learn how to run your own school-supply drive, consider this advice on the entire process.
Run One at the Beginning of the Year
Parents get into the back-to-school frame of mind in July or August. If you were to initiate a school drive then, you wouldn’t be ready to roll it out in time to catch the wave of supplies-buying. Though it sounds early, start preparing for next year’s school drive soon after the previous year ends. Depending on your district’s schedule, June is typically a good month to target so you have at least a month to plan.
Once late July and August roll around, you’ll be ready to take advantage of the peak back-to-school season. This is when parents typically buy pens, pencils, and backpacks, so promoting your drive will be easier in this season. Also, this is when teachers stock up on supplies—buying things that they need will cut down on the personal funds they put toward their classroom needs.
Decide Where Supplies Are Going
As you plan your drive in early summer, consider whom it will support. The PTO board may want to target supplies to a needy school in the district, the entire district equally, or elsewhere. Essentially, you’ll want to determine whether you’ll send donations to a local school or partner with a nonprofit that delivers the collected supplies somewhere else. If you do partner with an organization, you have more choice over the demographic you serve. Settling on a recipient for supplies also helps you tailor your requested items to their specific needs. For example, if you’re targeting your supplies to an elementary school, the students may need crayons rather than correction tape.
Determine What Your Drive Will Look Like
When you’ve nailed down a time of year and destination for your donations, you still need to schedule the timeframe it will take place within and the occasion for it.
You have some options when picking a timeframe. You can focus all of your promotional energy on one event or give a weeks- or months-long span for people to buy supplies. The negative to a one-day event is you may miss out on potential donors who cannot be there or those who attend but don’t bring supplies. It’s vital that you accurately advertise for an event to give people ample time to purchase art supplies, backpacks, folders, or whatever supplies you collect. For a more long-term supply drive, set up numerous drop-off points around the community that you clearly mark. Ask stores near you if you can set up one of these drop-off points on their property. Also, make sure you find creative ways to keep the excitement up—the same periodic email reminder will become stale quickly.
If you do align your drive an event, pick an occasion that allows for a high donation potential. While a small art show won’t have the traffic you would want, a concert, sporting event, or similarly large-scale event would be ideal. Ask band directors, sports coaches, and other leadership when a large event will take place to get an idea of your possibilities.
Talk to Teachers
When looking to run your own school-supply drive, often the most helpful step is to communicate with teachers about what items they really need.
They Know What’s Typically Missing
Teachers connect with parents and understand how they buy school supplies. These parents may give them insight into their difficulties buying certain supplies or may routinely ignore buying items such as tissues or backpacks. After talking, you may realize it’s wise to ask for bulk kids backpacks or hygiene products instead of focusing on folders and pencils that the teachers and students already have.
They Need Support
A second reason to communicate with teachers is they buy missing supplies with their own money. Relieving them of the burden to equip their classroom without funding and parent support is a great help to them. It allows them to feel supported rather than sense that they are going about their important job alone.
They Know What Will Be Used
Additionally, teachers simply know what they will use during the year because they plan assignments and class activities. If they feel that students will need more markers or notebook paper during a particular year, holding a drive that targets these items will anticipate a coming shortage.
Promote Your Drive
There are many ways to build interest in your drive: word of mouth, social media, and local media are a couple quality options.
Word of Mouth
Spreading your cause through friends, family, and other parents will go far if done right. Make sure the PTO board commits to mentioning the drive in their various networks. Discuss it at church, art and book clubs, the gym, and anywhere else there is an audience.
The biggest audience you have in one place is likely on Facebook or Instagram. Use these or other social media accounts to post a flyer for your supply drive and drum up interest, as the flyer will be shared with other people. If you have a community-specific page, make sure you post it there.
Ask around—you may even be able to have your local paper or radio station give your drive free press. Think about what sources have the most influence and appeal to them first. By using this and other means, you’re sure to catch many different people who want to help a local school or nonprofit cause.
Organize the Donations
When everything settles and you’ve collected your supplies, the job still isn’t over. It’s important to organize or prepare your supplies appropriately to move. This applies if you’re sending them to a nonprofit miles away or need to deliver them a couple of blocks away. Get volunteers to gather everything together and package donations while they’re available. This way the process is less of a headache, and the students who need these supplies can access them quickly.