Community Donations

Collecting for a Cause: How to Organize a Community Charity Drive

Volunteering has been on your to-do list for quite a while. But the last time you tried to sign up, they asked for a police clearance, a background check, two forms of ID and a weekly commitment. Geez! You barely have time to shower everyday, let alone fill out a pile of paperwork just to donate your time.

Hey, it’s okay. We totally understand, but there is something you can do that requires only a minimal commitment. Consider organizing a community charity drive. It’s an activity that can build a greater sense of community, while doing a whole lot of good.

But before you start putting out boxes and collecting clothes and canned goods, there are some basic steps you’ll need to take. We’ve defined these steps in terms of questions. Here’s a quick look at the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of organizing a charity drive.

Who will be helping to organize the charity event?

Do you need help? If so, who will help you? Here’s a simple checklist to make sure you have this area covered:

  • Recruit a team, preferably of people who are trustworthy and work well together.
  • Schedule an initial meeting at a time and place that’s convenient for everyone.
  • Start assigning tasks. If you need to research charities, ask for team members to help. Or if you already know your charity, determine next steps.
small meeting

What charity will you choose? What does the charity need most?

You can choose your charity before you choose your team, or you can choose a charity together during the first meeting. Either way, you’ll want to:

  • Do your research using online tools like Charity Navigator, GiveWell and Intelligent Philanthropy. These sites let you find and compare charities based on effectiveness, efficiency, types of service, and areas served.
  • Ask which charity will resonate most with your audience. For example, if you’re holding a charity drive at your child’s school, you might choose a charity that’s focused around education or less fortunate children.
  • Call the charity or look on their website to see which items they need most. All charities need money, but some charities also need specific items—like blankets, towels, clothing, non-perishable food items or toiletries—that people are more willing to donate than straight-out cash.
  • Think up options such as a car wash, a bake sale or a special event to raise money when cash is needed. When people feel like they’re getting something in return, they’re often much more willing to give.
car wash

When will the charity drive be held?

The “when” is both the specific duration of the drive and the hours you’ll be collecting. Here’s a checklist to get you organized:

  • Find out when the charity will need the goods you will be collecting. Some charities don’t have the capacity for long-term storage. For example, you probably don’t want to collect winter coats in the spring.
  • Choose a specific starting and ending date. Will it be a month-long drive? A one-day event? Whatever you choose, be specific.

Determine which hours of the day your collection or event will be held. If it’s a one-day event like a car wash, choose a specific starting and ending time. For clothing or food drives, determine which hours the collection bin will be on site. If you choose to leave the bin at work, at school or in a community building, consider security.


Where will you be collecting or holding the event?

Charity drives can be held just about anywhere, as long as the organization allows them. Here’s what you’ll need to do before you set your location:

  • Determine which location or locations your drive or event will be held.
  • Find out each location’s policy on fundraising activities. For example, some workplaces may limit fundraising activities to certain charities or ban charitable drives altogether.
  • Designate who will be responsible for each location. If the drive is a one-time, one-location event, determine where each volunteer will be stationed.

Photo Credit: Stefano Tinti

Why should people give?

Why did you choose your charity? You’ll want to craft a compelling message that will convince people to give. Here’s how:

  • Learn about the charity by reading the website and any first-hand testimonials that are available.
  • Define the charity’s mission and how it is achieved.
  • Find or craft a short, memorable message that will make people want to give. This message will be used to communicate your event.

How will you spread your message?

Once you decide on your message, how will you communicate it? Here are some steps you can take to spread the word about your charity drive:

  • Hand out fliers about your charity drive that include a short message about the charity and the time, date and location of the event or collection sites.
  • Print out posters or fliers and ask local businesses if you can display them in their windows or on bulletin boards. Visit coffeehouses, bakeries, banks, schools, movie theaters, community centers, grocery stores—anywhere you think people will see them.
  • If you live in a safe neighborhood, go house to house to inform your neighbors about the event and invite them to participate.
  • Consider sending out an email about the event, especially if you’re reaching out to coworkers, parents of students, and members of homeowners’ associations.
  • Send a press release about the event to local papers or news stations.
  • Post a video clip about the event on YouTube and include the link on all fliers, emails and other forms of communication.
  • Tweet about the event. Or better yet, get celebrities or local officials to send out tweets.
  • Share the event on Facebook, and get your friends to share it too.
communicate event