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Organizing a Successful Food Drive: 6 Tips

When the pandemic started, many Americans banded together to care for their neighbors and provide for those in need. As COVID cases rise once again, it seems their work has only just begun. 

The demand for food is higher now than before the pandemic, and some predict that the country’s food banks may never return to normal. These organizations rely on charitable donations to stay up and running, but tight economic times have made it more difficult to gather and distribute food. 

Luckily, you can help struggling families and the organizations that support them by organizing a food drive. Use the tips below to plan a successful campaign and make a lasting impact on your community. 

1. Pick a Partner

First, choose who you’ll partner with and support through your food drive. Which organization could use the most help this season? Assess local charities and social justice groups to determine which one might benefit the most from donations. 

The pandemic prompted an increase in food insecurity, so many food banks may be struggling to provide for those in need. Consider partnering with more than one if you anticipate collecting plenty of donations. Remember to chat with someone from the organization, too, so they can plan for and publicize the food drive with you. 

2. Make Measurable Goals

After determining your partner organization’s quantitative and qualitative needs of your partner organization, it’s essential to create goals that’ll help you meet them. Use SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.  This way, participants can easily measure how close they are to accomplishing them before, during and after the drive. 

How much food do you plan to collect? How long will the drive last? If your partner has participated in food drives, their records might help you create more achievable and realistic goals. Maintain a journal or spreadsheet to track progress and look for matching opportunities from other organizations. They could double or triple your impact while requiring little effort from you or volunteers. 

3. Choose a Collection Method

You can execute a food drive in several ways, from a single-site drop-off to an event-related drive with multiple collection sites. You can even organize a virtual food drive by collecting financial donations and purchasing the items yourself. 

Of course, the type of food will often determine your collection method. For example, if you’re organizing a drive for canned goods, a simple dropbox will do. However, frozen foods and fresh produce may require refrigeration or careful handling during the transportation process. Keep these details in mind when arranging for food collection, storage and distribution. 

4. Recruit Volunteers

Organizing a food drive is easier said than done, especially if you’ve made ambitious collection goals. Luckily, you can lighten your load by recruiting volunteers and delegating tasks. As friends, family, colleagues and even acquaintances join in your efforts. Together, you can accomplish infinitely more than you would alone.

Auto refinancing company RefiJet is just one example of teamwork making the dream work. By creating a crew of 90 people, it managed to package and donate 4,500 pounds of beans in just three hours. You can make a similar impact by forming a committee, designating team leaders and finding volunteers. The more people participate, the easier it will be to make a lasting impact on your community. 

5. Publicize the Food Drive 

The key to a successful food drive is getting the word out. Generate publicity and interest by distributing fliers, posting to social media and engaging with friends and family. Use both physical and virtual message boards to promote the event, too. You can even contact local media and news outlets to simplify and streamline your efforts. 

Include basic details like the date, time and location of the event and drop-off sites. List suggested foods for contribution, too. Often, organizations will request canned goods because they can retain nutrients and safety for decades. However, they may also accept gift cards, cash donations and perishable goods. 

6. Plan a Kick-Off Event

If you really want to get peoples’ attention and encourage community involvement, jump-start your food drive with a kick-off event. Rally everyone to fight hunger with a fun run, raffle, concert or similar event. Perhaps your partner organization has a few ideas that have proven effective in recent years. Be open to suggestions and stick with whatever works best for everyone involved. 

Remember to set up collection sites at the event to prompt immediate action. Give your partners some time to introduce themselves and share their mission, too. People are generally more willing to make donations when they understand and can empathize with the cause. 

Organizing a Successful Food Drive

Your work isn’t complete until the food reaches its destination, which means you’ll still have some loose ends to tie up after the drive. 

Delegate a few volunteers to sort and organize donations. Then, load up your cars and transport everything to food pantries or an organization that’ll distribute the food for you. Throw a party to thank your volunteers — and maybe even your donors. Whether you achieved your goals or not, you’ll still have made a huge difference, and that deserves some celebration. 

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