Leading Effective Giving and Charity

Recently, between work and my personal life, I have seen different groups of people putting together charitable efforts in order to help hurricane victims. While I admire and support anyone who wants to help someone in need, many people go about this in a very disorganized and unsuccessful way. I hate to see someone's efforts fail to be successful, especially when their motives are so good!

For a couple years, I was the chairman of a corporate outreach committee and we had very successful years running events. I credit this to my amazing team of people who were totally enthusiastic and organized. We had great ideas, but even a merely good idea can be successful if it is executed correctly.

I wanted to share some of the strategies we used when organizing events (some of which we learned through observing others and asking questions!). We supported all sorts of organizations, from veterans groups to women's shelters to children's hospitals, and each and every event turned out to be wildly successful for a few very simple reasons.

Donated items: Several of our events centered around donated items, such as collecting toiletries and clothing for shelters to collecting toys for toy drives. The key to this is creating a theme to the donation drive over time, which gives people a focus and a direction for their giving. Most people want to give, but they don't know how to do so effectively and they shy away from it. With our toy drive, we created an Angel Tree, and we placed numerous little angels all over it, pink for girls and blue for boys, with an age range and some general ideas on the angel. If someone picked an angel, they knew exactly what type of toy to bring. This proved tremendously successful, as I had to fill the tree with new angels three times to accommodate the participation. In the end, it was several full carloads that were collected for donation. Same thing applies to toiletry collections or food drives. June might have been “mac and cheese” month for the food drive, and the box would be filled with it because people knew exactly what to get. Same with toiletries, if you specified one day was for baby items, and the next day was for toothpaste, people participated far more heavily than without any direction.

Cash donations: I think cash donations are even easier to get than donated goods, and food always works. We successfully sold lunch plates for a flat price with all proceeds benefiting the charity we supported. Everyone loves food. We also had silent auctions with mother's day baskets, where different groups were assigned a theme to create a beautiful basket, with themes of a spa day, foodie mom, or arts and crafts, and the baskets were put up for silent auction. Many of our baskets were sold off for four or five times the actual cost of the basket because people loved to participate. Healthy competition also works. Creating teams of people to see who can raise the most money inspires a lot of enthusiasm with people coming up with their own creative ideas on getting money! Another thing we did, almost to too much success based on the work it left us, was having penny wars! Each team was tasked with generating the most pennies in their bucket but could sabotage other teams but putting silver coins in their buckets which would then offset an equal number of pennies. Competition became fierce over this! People were bringing in rolls of quarters to dump in opposing team buckets! In the end, we raised hundreds of dollars, and left ourselves with quite a task of counting and rolling coins!

I have found that people are unbelievably generous, and the only difference between a successful event and not is organization. Providing themes, competition and fun bring people in. People will amaze you with their creativity when you ask for their ideas and contributions.

The one last tip to success is to ask. If you believe in your cause and people see your passion, they will give. I have never had trouble just asking for people to sign up and donate, most people are completely willing to do so.


  1. I think you hit on something really key with your comment about giving people direction. When it's vague "bring in toiletries" then people worry will they bring in the right thing or what type and they'll go the store and stand there trying to figure out what to get and perhaps give up - but when you say "bring in toothpaste" it's clearly defined and it makes it easier for them to just do it.


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