by Stephanie Shelton of AAA Storage City in Ridgeland, SC
I don’t know about you, but my self-storage facility hasn’t had very good luck in past years with our holiday charity efforts. The vast majority of our tenants are utilizing an auto-payment system or paying online, so we do not have the option of seeing them face to face. Even if we do happen to catch some face time, they aren’t likely to have a bag of canned goods in their trunk to donate to a food drive. Despite trying something new every year, we are never very successful in the end. I vowed that this year would be different— I just wasn’t quite sure how that would happen.
Last year, my facility manager showed me a YouTube video of a facility that had packed a storage unit full of food for Thanksgiving. That was really neat, but how would we get our tenants to participate? If we couldn’t get our tenants to donate in previous years, what could make them do it this year? Would they bring in food? How much food could we collect? Can we even fill a storage unit? After thinking about it for weeks, the answer turned out to be simple: Take what worked from several different events or charity efforts and combine them.
The first order of business was figuring out how we were going to get the food. Prior experience showed us food drives were not the answer. This left only one option: Get monetary donations and use it to purchase food. But would we be able to raise enough money to purchase enough food to fill the unit? Sheer terror set in immediately. What if we didn’t? How could we make certain that didn’t happen?
A few years ago, a group of local business owners hosted an expo for the community. Each business pitched in $20 toward a flat screen TV, and each person who attended the expo received a drawing ticket for the TV. The catch was that each person had to visit every single business booth at the expo and get the ticket stamped. Only then could they drop the ticket in for the drawing. It was both genius and extremely effective! We decided to apply to same principal to our charity efforts. A $10 donation would be enough to purchase one meal for a family, but would the community participate if their donation entered them into a drawing for a TV? Would our local businesses be interested in doing a joint charity effort?
It turns out that they were interested. Boy, were they interested! Not only did they offer to aid with the purchase of the TV, but some have also become donation points for the charity. A few local restaurants wanted to give a little extra, so we added a second goodie for those who wished to donate: Guess how many pounds of food it will take to completely stuff the unit for a chance at $50 in gift certificates!
Our original goal was to raise enough money to purchase sixty meals in six weeks starting November 1. I’m proud to say that as a community, we hit that goal in nine days! At the time of writing this, we are sitting at 99 meals raised with still three more weeks to go. All of the meals will be donated to a local nonprofit organization that does Christmas dinner distribution every year. A group of us will “stuff” the storage unit and do the drawing for the TV on December 15, then pack all of the food up again and deliver it to the distribution center. Several people from our facility and the other participating businesses plan to help on distribution day as well.
I’m not quite certain how “success” is measured in situations like these. What I do know is that at least 99 families are going to have Christmas dinner this year. That is a lot of full, happy bellies! If you’ve had issues in the past with charitable efforts at your facility, perhaps our experience will help you. Evaluate your past efforts, pinpoint what worked and what didn’t. Combine what worked and get your community involved. People working together can really make a difference.