Have you thought of running a coat drive? Giving the gift of a warm coat to person in need sounds wonderful but have the logistics of a coat drive may hold some back. We've got some tips on running a successful coat drive as well as information on how to simplify the process by running a drive for new coats using the free, online drive service, YouGiveGoods.com.

The winter months are a terrible struggle for low income families and the homeless. The weather can be relentless and dangerous. It is hard to think of anyone heading out during these days without a proper coat, especially a child, but this is the reality for far too many people. And, this is not a problem that not only exists in cities with a large homeless population. Seniors, children and working people in our own communities may struggle to afford the appropriate winter gear to survive the season. Running a coat drive is an ideal way to help keep people warm this winter.

Tips to running a successful coat drive

  • 1) Pick your nonprofit partner. First, contact local nonprofits and programs to understand their needs for the winter season. When you have chosen an organization, discuss their needs and the timing that works best for them. They may have greater need for children's coats, for example. Or, they may hold coat distribution during certain weeks in the fall and winter. In addition to coats your nonprofit partner may request other cold weather gear like hats and gloves. Check out how Joining Hands in New Jersey raised children's coats, hats, gloves and even games for children of military families with their YouGiveGoods online drive. Once you and your nonprofit are on the same page, you can work on the logistics.
  • 2) Place collection bins. Once you determine the dates of your drive, you'll need to determine the best places around town for your collection bins. Consider spots that have easy access and higher traffic so you make it as convenient as possible for people to donate. Be sure to get approval before you leave a collection bin. Boxes will need to be large enough to hold bulky coats. And, include clear, colorful and catchy signs to get the attention of potential donors. Don't want to deal with the hassle of collection bins? Just run a YouGiveGoods online drive and no bins are needed! If you already run a collection bin drive, consider adding the online drive option to encourage more donations.
  • 3) Promote. Promotion is extremely important to the success of your drive. Your flyers and signs should clearly state exactly what you are collecting. Be specific about sizes (toddler, child, youth and/or adult) and the quality (no broken zippers, rips, etc) of donated coats. And, include information about the needs of your community and the recipient nonprofit organization or program so people can feel good about the coats getting in the hands of those that need them. Social media is a great tool to spread the word about your drive. Ask friends and family to help spread the word by sharing on their social networks. YouGiveGoods drives are made for social sharing and really simplify the promotion process.
  • 4) Collect and sort. At the close of the drive you will hopefully have a lot of collecting and sorting to do. Enlist volunteers to help do the job and get the coats to the nonprofit. You may find coats that are not in good enough shape to pass along. You can check with your local Goodwill to see if they are able to accept them. (You can skip this step entirely when running a YouGiveGoods online drive. All the logistics are handled for you.)
  • 5) Think outside the box. Although people generally think of coat drives as collecting used coats, a great idea is to consider collecting new coats for charity. Receiving a brand-new coat gives kids a great feeling of joy and self-esteem. A struggling parent that is able to secure a new coat for their child feels great as well. Your new coat drive can be highly simplified by using YouGiveGoods.com to run the drive entirely online.

    Quality, new coats in all sizes are available for your YouGiveGoods drive. Also available to add to your online drive are warm hats, gloves and socks which charities are also in need of during the winter months.

    Browse YouGiveGoods' cold weather products available for your drive. Simply choose your charity, create your personalized drive page, share your drive link via email and social media with family, friends and your online community and ask for their support. All items purchased on your drive ship directly to your chosen organization at the close of the drive free of charge.
  • 6) Increase your impact. A corporate sponsor can take your drive to the next level. Many corporations are actively looking for opportunities to support their local communities. Talk to a few friends. Make a few calls. A great partnership could make a real difference in your effort. See how Optum's New Jersey office raised coats, hats and gloves for a local charity.
  • 7) Celebrate your success. Ask your volunteers to help with the delivery and possibly even attend distribution day at the nonprofit. The words of thanks from the program director will feel great not to mention the gratitude from a coat recipient! Don't be shy. Send an email to the local press about your accomplishment and invite them to take photos. This is not self-promotion: your work may inspire others to do the same!

Remember, whether you collect 5 coats or 500, you will have brought warmth and perhaps even a little hope to someone in need. Good luck with your coat drive!

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