Select and Recruit Recipient Agencies
Find a Home for Your Diaper Bank
Equipment and Supplies
Record keeping and tracking diaper donations
Get the Most out of Your Volunteers
Train Your Staff
Liability and Insurance
Find Professional Specialists
Work with the Media
Map Out a Fund-raising Plan
This section of the manual addresses issues a program planner should consider before the program “opens its doors.”
Several themes that are repeated in this section of the manual are efficiency and the importance of building a program that appeals to donors and agencies. The importance of building a safe, reliable, “user-friendly” diaper bank cannot be overemphasized.
You may be surprised to see how many program design decisions are interrelated. For example, the level of staff training depends in large part on how duties will be allocated. The number of staff among which duties can be divided is often dictated by the amount of money the program can devote to staff-related expenses. How much is spent on staffing, in turn, may depend on the success of fund raising. Program planners need to recognize that one design decision may decide a host of others.
This fact can be daunting. Often, there are no clear-cut answers. Diaper banks have been able to wade through the sometimes uncertain design process by weighing their options, making tentative decisions, acting on them, and revising them as necessary. Veterans stress that there are no prescriptions — that a certain amount of flexibility and trial and error are necessary and should not be interpreted as failure.
At the same time, impatience with detail, perhaps from zeal to get diapers to people who need them, is harmful to a sound program. Resist the temptation to rush or to assume you can solve major problems as you go along.
Select and Recruit Recipient Agencies
Recipient Agencies are those entities that will distribute diapers received through diaper banks to people who need diapers. They are one of a diaper bank’s most important constituencies.
The information that program planners collect during their preliminary research should give them an overview of a program’s pool of potential recipient agencies in their community. The next step is to decide which of the groups in that pool they would most like to sign on as actual recipient agencies.
Plan to visit each agency. A site visit can often reveal aspects of the program’s operation that might not be evident during a telephone call or a meeting apart from the agency.
When recruiting agencies, you should be prepared to describe the program in detail, including these aspects:
● Your diaper bank’s other recipient agencies
● Your diaper bank’s scheduling practices
● Your diaper bank’s record keeping requirements
● Your diaper bank staff’s training and qualification
Questions to Consider:
• Which agencies have the greatest need for diapers?
• What groups of people does the agency serve?
• Have we chosen to serve a particular demographic, and if so, what agencies serve that population?
• Which agencies can best use the diapers?
• Is the agency unusually far away from your diaper bank, and if so, will that be an impediment to getting diapers to them? Will the agency be willing to pick up diapers?
• Does the agency have a good track record in the community?
• Can the agency accommodate the diapers?
• Does the agency have clean, dry storage space available for diapers?
• Is the agency willing to report on how many diapers are distributed and to whom?
• Does the agency have a good reputation with the public?
• A diaper bank’s success depends on having strong relationships with its recipient agencies.
• Recruiting a group of respected and responsible recipient agencies enhances a new diaper bank’s credibility with the health department, potential donors, other anti-poverty groups and other potential recipient agencies.
• Making decisions concerning the program’s breadth and depth of service to recipient agencies without strong agency input could result in having to revisit those decisions (and the organizational structure and mission) after discovering that assumptions made were incorrect.
Find a Home for Your Diaper Bank
Although many diaper banks begin out of person’s home, storage and distribution needs can become overwhelming. If the decision is made to look for commercial storage, keep in mind that while diapers have the advantage of not being perishable, but they still must be kept dry and they can take up a lot of space. As a rule of thumb, a 10 x 15 foot storage locker can store approximately 50,000 diapers. As you grow, keep in mind that if you want to be able to sort and distribute from your storage location, you should look for approximately 1000 square feet in order to store, sort and distribute 300,000 diapers.
If you decide you cannot store that many diapers in space you currently have access too, contact your partner agencies or other social service agencies to see if they have excess warehouse space they will be willing to share or rent at a reduced rate. See if you can obtain donated space or a reduced rate for warehouse space from local businesses or property management companies. You can also consider less conventional storage options. The Greater Hampton Roads Diaper Bank operates out of an old shipping container it has electrified and insulated. For many years, the Los Angeles Diaper Drive operated out its founder’s garage, distributing more than a million diapers a year.
If you are in a position to buy large quantities of diapers or otherwise receive truckloads’ worth of product, you may want to find a space with a loading dock that can accept a 53 foot long tractor-trailer truck. A trailer generally holds between 250,000 and 350,000 diapers, and generally offers diaper banks the lowest price per diaper for those able to buy in those quantities. However, in order to accept delivery from a truck, you need a loading dock. A loading dock is a raised platform that allows the truck to back up directly to an opening to the warehouse allowing for easy unloading with a pallet jack or forklift. The average standard loading dock is between 48″ and 54″ high.
Equipment and Supplies
A program’s operational model will be the single most important factor that influence its equipment needs. Generally, diaper banks need standard office and communications equipment, and depending on their storage space, warehouse equipment such as pallet jacks. Diaper banks that deliver diapers will also need transportation equipment.
We recommend that new programs thoroughly investigate and compare the various types of communications equipment they are likely to need. At a minimum, diaper banks need a reliable phone system. Many benefit from the flexibility and convenience afforded by fax machines and an answering system. In the 21st century, a computer is also a very important tool in a diaper bank’s communication tool kit. Many diaper banks find a website a very important part of their communication strategy, and others also rely heavily on Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness of their mission. Computers also provide a means of storing records and developing inventory systems, even if they are based on simple spreadsheet programs. One does not need a “super computer” for most diaper bank operations, but a reliable desktop or laptop computer should be consider part of basic office equipment.
Programs will also want to look at equipment necessary for proper storage of diapers, including warehouse equipment such as a pallet jack or a forklift, or even sturdy shelving that allows the diaper bank to optimize its available space if your program is operating in a space other than a warehouse. If you decide to get a forklift (which may be required if you do not have a loading dock), remember that you will also need a driver. Beyond that, you might consider a desk for your phone and computer and workspace, and a table or counter where you can sort diaper orders or repackage diapers.
Using appropriate and reliable equipment is an important way to ensure that diapers are being distributed safely and efficiently, and it reduces a program’s liability exposure. Taking time to thoroughly investigate equipment needs will help preclude investment in items that become obsolete or outgrown as the program expands. Donors and agencies are impressed by programs that make thoughtful, correct use of equipment.
Questions to Consider:
• What equipment will we need to complete the required forms and records?
• How much can we afford to spend on equipment?
• How will our choices of equipment and supplies be influenced by geography, local ordinances, our own handling policies, and the quantity of diapers we plan to distribute?
• Are we limited in the number of diapers we can buy or accept by not having the right kind of warehouse equipment to deal with large shipments of diapers?
• What non-essential equipment might help us to operate more safely and efficiently?
• Donations of equipment and supplies donated (as “gifts in-kind”) can save thousands of dollars.
• Buying used equipment can save money. But, for equipment like a fork lift or trucks, be sure to have a qualified professional inspect the used equipment beforehand to make sure it is in good condition and will not be more trouble than it is worth.
• Donated equipment that cannot be integrated into the program can actually be a burden.
• Do not overlook the importance and costs of proper maintenance and employee training.
• Plan for growth when choosing equipment.
Record Keeping and Tracking Diaper Donations
Many grant applications and reports request specific data about the size and scope of demonstrated performance as well as expected reach of the program. Developing a method for collecting and maintaining information that can be used in grant applications will pay dividends in the end.
● Information must be collected accurately and completely and maintained in such a way to be easily accessible for several important reasons. A well-organized information base is essential for program evaluation and planning.
● It enables programs to respond to requests from agencies, funders, and other important constituencies.
● It allows a diaper bank to document its actions in the event they are challenged, as would be the case if the program were the target of a lawsuit.
There are several different ways of managing the information collected. A program’s finances are likely to dictate the type of system it adopts. Some programs have computerized forms and records. Others record information manually in logs or daily journals. Whatever the system, we strongly recommended that the program establish its record keeping protocol before opening its doors.
Certain specific program and administrative matters that will require documentation are:
● Donor information, including any general correspondence with your diaper bank, and a running account of the types, dates and amounts of any donations
● Agency Information, including any site visits, training records, profile of the number and types of clients served, types and amount of diapers needed, general correspondence with your diaper bank, and a running account of the types and numbers of diaper received, and dates of receipt
● Periodic Inventory check in the warehouse and pick-up or delivery scheduled and completed
● Donor and Agency recruitment information
● Vehicle Records (if diapers are delivered), including a log of daily usage, mileage, routes covered, drivers, problems, and any routine maintenance or repairs performed
There are many software accounting products available specially designed for nonprofits. Consult with other nonprofit organizations for recommendations, and consider evaluating various options during free trial periods.
Questions to Consider:
• What information needs to be collected? How best will it be recorded and stored? Will our records system allow us to retrieve information easily?
• What record keeping tools and supplies will we need before we open?
• What record keeping tasks will we ask of our donors and recipient agencies?
• Will our information management system keep pace with the program as it grows?
• Experienced programs recommend making one person accountable for the overall accuracy information system and giving that person the authority to request timely, complete information from the rest of the staff and recipient agencies.
• To the extent possible, try to minimize the number of different record systems you keep.
• Make forms easy to understand.
• Do not be surprised if your first record keeping systems needs to be revised after your program has been operating for a while. Anticipate changing needs by designing an initial system that is flexible and can accommodate growth.
• Many grant applications and reports request specific data on the size and scope of demonstrated performance as well as expected reach of the program.
• Sound record keeping protects a program should its practices ever be questioned.
• For the sake of planning and budgeting, agencies need to keep track of how many diapers they have received from your diaper bank.
• Donors and agencies are more responsive to a program that carefully tracks where diapers come from, where they go, and how they are distributed.
• Donors often want information on what activities they supported, how many diapers they helped get distributed, and how many children and families they have helped.
• Some donors like to know the exact extent of their participation and how it compares to that of other donors.
• Be prepared to offer donors and recipient agencies copies of records concerning pick-ups and deliveries.
With the general operational and structural issues settled, new programs are ready to consider their staffing needs. This requires identifying and dividing the many tasks involved in running a diaper bank.
There are no set rules on staffing a diaper bank. The size of the staff and the division of responsibilities among its members depend on a variety of factors:
● Operational model. Diaper banks that deliver diapers may need more staff because of the added responsibility of operating and maintaining vehicles.
● Organizational model. New independent programs typically need to build both a program staff and a support staff. Programs established under a parent organization, however, sometimes inherit program and support staff from the parent organization or use the parent’s staff on an “as needed” basis.
● Your diaper bank’s size. Programs serving a large number of receiving agencies are likely to require more staff than those serving a small number of agencies.
● Your diaper bank’s budget. The amount of money a program is able to allocate for employee salaries, insurance, fringe benefits and training will influence the size of its staff.
● Your diaper bank’s use of paid versus volunteer staff. Programs choosing to use volunteers as well as paid staff are usually able to engage significantly more staff than those choosing to use only paid staff.
The staff is the engine of every diaper bank, whether they are paid or volunteer. Staff members can be links to the program’s important constituencies–donors, agencies, other social services and anti-poverty organizations. A skilled, competent staff is the best asset a new program can present to these constituencies.
Questions to Consider:
• What are the tasks that must be done, and how they should be divided into staff positions?
• How do staff responsibilities differ from board of directors and where do these overlap?
• What is the best mix of full-time, part-time, and volunteer staff to fill these positions?
• What skill levels and work experience are needed to successfully fill the positions that have been created?
• How much can be budgeted to help the program attract, train and retain committed and qualified staff? How do the program’s salaries compare to those offered by comparable programs?
• Who will recruit, screen, and select new staff?
• Draft clear and complete job descriptions for each position to be created. This will help you organize the program’s initial staff needs, and to identify overlapping responsibilities. Keep job descriptions up-to-date as the program grows. Keeping track of employees’ responsibilities will help with overall program management, allow you to gauge growth, and decide when additional staff are needed.
• Ideally a program would be able to find and afford a staff with all of the various areas of expertise needed to run a diaper bank. Realistically, this is often not possible. Prioritize the skills you need and find individuals who, as a group, meet these requirements. Train them to fill in their skills gaps. Recruit professional experts or consultants for specialized assistance like legal or accounting advice.
• New programs often miscalculate their staffing needs because they underestimate the time involved in a diaper bank operation. They fail to realize that a running a diaper bank is labor and time intensive.
• Ideal candidates will offer flexibility, willingness to learn, sensitivity, tolerance, and the skills needed to discharge their responsibilities
Get the Most Out of Your Volunteers
One of a new diaper bank’s early planning tasks should be to examine the many ways diaper banks can use volunteers. Knowing how volunteers can be used will help a program decide if it will engage volunteers and, if so, what role they will play.
Volunteers can play many roles in a diaper bank. Some programs are entirely volunteer operated; others use none at all.
Most diaper banks use at least a few volunteers. There are both advantages and disadvantages of volunteer staffing. Remember that, with the exception of salary and benefits, volunteer staff need all the training and staff support as described above as much as paid staff.
Properly-trained volunteers can be a great money saving asset. Improperly trained volunteers can place a program at risk. Reliable and competent volunteers can reduce the paid staff’s workload by assuming responsibility for select tasks, projects, and initiatives. Unreliable and/or incompetent volunteers may require constant supervision and direction and can place a greater burden on paid staff.
Volunteers may stay with a program for years. Others may leave after a few days. High turnover is a fact of life for programs using volunteers.
Because community service is often valued at the corporate or organizational level, you may find volunteers coming to you for reasons beyond wanting to help your diaper bank. There are many different types of volunteer force. Often, organizations or corporations will assemble groups of volunteers for short term, discrete projects that they can use as team building activities and displays of their civic commitment. Or schools may require students to volunteer as part of a community service requirement
Some donors and agencies will credit a diaper bank for using volunteers.
Do not make the mistake of undervaluing your volunteer staff. The nonprofit organization Independent Sector estimates that volunteer staff time was valued nationally at an average of $22.55 per hour for 2013. The Federal Government’s Corporation for National and Community Service has good information on volunteer management issues, including volunteer retention and community factors that influence volunteering. See the website at http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/
Also, do not undervalue the importance of developing a volunteer force to your fundraising prospects. Research shows that people who volunteer are more likely to donate money to your organization than those who don’t, and two-thirds of volunteers give money to the organizations where they donate their time. On the same note, asking donors to share something other than their money (like their time and talents) can help cultivate lasting, committed relationships. VolunteerHub has some great guides to helping turn volunteers into donors and donors into volunteers.
Questions to Consider:
• How do other diaper banks and similar programs use volunteers? In what roles have they proven to be the most/least effective?
• What initial and ongoing training and supervision will volunteers require? How much can we expect them to cost?
• Who within your diaper bank will be accountable for designing the volunteer program, recruiting and training volunteers, monitoring their work, and addressing volunteer-related issues as they arise?
• Using volunteers is a great way to involve the community in the program.
• Volunteers can boost a diaper bank’s collection and distribution capacity without increasing its costs.
• Using volunteers can significantly reduce salary expenses.
• Engaged volunteers can be a significant source of donations, and enthusiastic donors can become volunteers.
• Always remember that volunteers are important and valuable resources — not just free help. As such, they need to be trained, supervised, motivated, praised and evaluated as carefully and thoughtfully as paid staff. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking that because they do not receive a salary, volunteers do not require the same level of attention and development as salaried staff.
• Low morale often accounts for high volunteer turnover. Extra efforts to recognize the contributions of volunteers will help keep morale high and turnover low, and may help your financial bottom line as well.
Train Your Staff
Because the field of diaper banking is relatively new, it may be difficult to find staff with prior diaper bank experience. But many general skills are applicable to operating a diaper bank (scheduling, fund raising, accounting, public relations, inventory management, etc.). Staff training programs should help staff adapt those skills to a diaper bank.
While no two diaper banks will have the same training needs, all programs have to offer the following:
● Administrative training, which includes information management, computer and office equipment usage, office procedures and policies.
● Management training, which includes fundraising, public and media relations, project management, budgeting and fiscal management, staff recruiting and management, board development and relations, and strategic or long-term planning.
● Practical information, which includes tips on communications with current and potential donors and agencies; community relations; and crisis management.
New programs should expect that staff training will vary from position to position.
There are many organizations that offer training to nonprofit organizations at free or reduced rates. Assess your training needs and contact local educational organizations to see what training is available. If training needed is for a particular computer application, contact the manufacturer to ask if they have free or reduced rate training available for nonprofits.
There is a tendency to become less concerned with training needs over time. Time and budget constraints, perhaps combined with a general feeling that staff is doing its job well, keeps many programs from following through on their long-terms training plans.
Questions to Consider:
• What are our immediate and long-term training needs? How will training vary from position to position?
• Will paid staff and volunteer training differ? If so, how?
• Is any particular training suggested or required by a governmental agency? Will they provide it?
• Do our potential recipient agencies have a preference for the way we train?
• How much time and money must we spend on training? Are there any entities that offer free or discounted training to nonprofit groups?
• Does our insurance policy contain any training stipulations? Can we lower our insurance costs by providing certain types of training?
• What types of training programs are the most and least successful in preparing other diaper banks?
• Consider training after forming a general idea of how the program will be staffed
• Keep in mind that it takes a certain amount of time to train people. Build training time into a program’s start-up and growth plans. For example, if possible, plan to start training a new driver at least two weeks before he/she is expected to actually assume responsibility for a route.
• Consider asking an existing diaper bank if your new diaper bank’s staff could visit for a day or two or on-the-job-training and observation.
• Program directors are often more attentive to the staff’s training needs than to their own. Do not overlook the fact that everyone needs initial and ongoing training.
• Realize that staff inherited from a host or affiliated organization may need to help adjusting to their new jobs. Early training will make it easier for them to identify with your diaper bank.
• Programs need to respond to the special training needs of their volunteers. Training is an often-overlooked volunteer reward and motivator.
• Local technical, vocational and business schools may offer courses on project management, fiscal administration, and nonprofit management.
• Be sure to include training in the budget. While local nonprofit associations and community colleges may provide some terrific free programs for nonprofit members, there may still be some costs involved in travel.
Liability and Insurance
Liability is the legal responsibility for loss or injury to someone else. It is a risk that any organization assumes when operating. While diaper banks are generally low risk operations, a diaper bank may face potential liability for warehouse operations, transportation of the diapers, or any other risk inherent in running an office and a distribution program. Consider what sort of risks you face and what sorts of insurance could offer coverage for those risks.
If you incorporate as a non-profit organization, you may also want to look into Directors and Officers (“D&O”) Insurance for your officers and board of directors. Many states limit the liability of directors of nonprofit boards, but no state eliminates potential liability completely. Costs for lawsuits begin before a court assesses blame. Even if a court ultimately determines that the diaper bank and its board of directors did nothing wrong, the cost of defending against a lawsuit can cost thousands of dollars.
Volunteer protection acts, Good Samaritan laws, or similar provisions, can be found at the federal and state levels. These laws limit the civil liability of certain organizations’ and entities’ volunteers under specific circumstances.
The federal Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (VPA) (42 U.S.C. §§ 14501 et al.) provides protection to nonprofit organizations’ and governmental entities’ volunteers for harm caused by their acts or omissions on behalf of the organization or entity. The act does not require that an emergency declaration be in place for its protections to apply. VPA applies to an uncompensated volunteer for acts of ordinary negligence committed within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities. If the volunteer’s responsibilities are covered by licensure laws, the volunteer must be properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities as required by the law in the state in which the harm occurred.
The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 (42 U.S.C. §1791) protects companies and organizations who donate apparently wholesome food in good faith to a nonprofit organization for the ultimate purpose of distribution to people in need from liability. The act was passed with the intention of prevention the waste of good food and to encourage donation to food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchen.
These laws help protect nonprofits and their volunteers from liability in the execution of their charitable purpose absent gross negligence. The federal laws provide a floor for liability. Each state may have additional protections for the nonprofits and their volunteers operating within their state. But no law protects a nonprofit from all liability, and many protection laws exclude paid staff.
No operation is without risk. That said, some enterprises are riskier than others. Insurance premiums generally follow the level of risk—if it is a low risk, the premium is generally inexpensive.
Make a careful assessment of how you operate and what could go wrong. Note, if you are delivering diapers, you will want to have coverage for possible traffic accidents. Laws regarding the liability of nonprofits in certain instances vary by state. Consult an insurance professional or an attorney to understand the state insurance laws for nonprofits.
State and federal law may offer some protection from liability for possible injury caused by the good faith actions of volunteers, but be sure you know the limits of those laws.
A diaper bank’s exact insurance needs depend on the particulars of its structure and functions. One constant, however, is that all diaper banks need liability insurance.
Depending on a diaper bank’s operation, the diaper bank may need to consider securing the following types of insurance
● Plant and equipment insurance
● Employee-health and worker’s-compensation insurance
● Unemployment insurance
● Liability coverage for the board of directors
We recommend that diaper banks consult an insurance advisor to determine the type and level of insurance needed.
Questions to Consider:
• Do we own the warehouse, and do we have the appropriate coverage for risk of fire, flood, theft, and accidents? If we do not own, what does the landlord’s insurance cover, and what coverage should we have on top of that?
• Do we operate in a high crime area, or is it a relatively secure location? Are we covered in the event of a theft? There have been instances where diaper banks were robbed of their diapers.
• Do we deliver diapers? Do we have coverage for possible traffic accidents?
• Do we have frequent visitors to our site? Are the steps and pathways in good repair?
• Is the board covered in the event of a lawsuit?
• What forms of insurance, and in what amounts, are required by law? Beyond legal considerations, what insurance do we need for our particular program?
• How much should we expect to spend for adequate insurance coverage?
• Can we get special nonprofit rates?
• If we have a fiscal sponsor, do we need to obtain coverage in addition to that carried by our parent organization?
• Without adequate insurance, one unfortunate incident can jeopardize the whole program. Note, some states require businesses to carry specific types of insurance. Check with a lawyer, your local chamber of commerce or your state’s secretary of state’s office to find what is required by law for your diaper bank.
• Some social service agencies offer special group health, life and accident insurance for employees of nonprofit organizations.
• Donors and agencies are more likely to cooperate with a solidly insured program.
Find Professional Specialists
Outside professionals can be of great help in the myriad specialized tasks required of diaper banks: accounting, fundraising, public relations, graphic design and layout, computer system design and installation, scheduling, truck maintenance and repair, personnel recruitment and development, insurance and legal work.
Questions to Consider:
• In what areas does our program most need specialized professional assistance?
• What local professional firms or individuals have demonstrated an interest in helping other local nonprofits? Are any involved with anti-poverty efforts or child welfare efforts? Are they charging for their time, offering a discounted rate, or providing pro bono services?
• Can you identify professionals that have gone untapped by local nonprofits?
• Which professional specialists seem to have enough time to take on our work? What level of commitment can they make to the program?
• Working with professional specialists during the planning process can help diaper banks build stronger programmatic, operational and administrative foundations. A strong system is needed to weather the sometimes-confusing start-up period.
• Having professional volunteers “on call” will not only save costs, but also give new programs credibility with potential donors and agencies.
• Professional specialists who are particularly committed to your diaper bank may make good board members.
• Be realistic about how much time and attention a program will get from professional specialists, especially if they are volunteering their help.
• In dealing with professional specialists, be careful to consider possible conflicts of interest (someone who stands to make a profit from your program). We recommend that you establish clear conflict-of-interest policies and ensure that your staff and board members fully understand them.
• Retired executives are a good source of volunteer technical assistance. Check with local companies or the Chamber of Commerce.
Work with the Media
Because diaper banks generate good stories, they often attract the interest of local, and occasionally, national media. How actively a program will seek such attention is a decision best made at the planning stage. That decision will be the basis of a media relations strategy.
The strategy might be reactive or proactive. Some programs have chosen only to respond to media inquiries; others have made a practice of issuing press releases and staging media events, and have resolved to commit the necessary time and money.
Diaper banks should consider the following:
● Positive media coverage can boost public recognition and support for a program and build credibility with potential donors, agencies, grant giving organizations and other important constituencies.
● Publicity for the program’s funders, donors, and agencies is a good means of acknowledging their support. (However, always ask permission to make public statements about their work with the program.)
● Attracting media attention can be an expensive and time consuming process—a place, if you can get it, for volunteer or pro bono help. Care must be taken not to develop elaborate media strategies that can expend time and money designated for running (or expanding) the program.
● A clear, consistent message helps to ensure favorable media coverage and can reduce the likelihood of adverse or inaccurate coverage.
Do not change the program in an effort to attract media attention. Resist letting the desire for media attention shape the program.
Questions to Consider:
• Do we want to seek media coverage? How much time and money are we willing to commit to our media strategy?
• How actively are other local anti-poverty groups pursuing media coverage? If we are too impassive, are we likely to get lost in the anti-poverty crowd?
• Does the local media often feature stories on childhood or elderly poverty*? Are there reporters who specialize in social programs? Do we have any natural points of entry with them? How can we best attract and retain their interest?
• Will our advisory board play a role in our media strategy? Should we recruit a board member with media relations experience?
• Are there local firms that provide media consulting? Can we recruit a media specialist to work at pro bono rates?
• Consider “pitching” the program to the media from an unusual perspective – for example, from that of the driver or recipient agency
• Media relations may not be a top priority concern in the busy first few months. However, a little planning may save the costs of putting together a haphazard strategy later.
• Promoting your grand opening is a good way to start building interest in the program.
• Tie your program into national events, like Diaper Need Awareness Week and the Diaper Banks in America Conference.
• Consider events and holidays that lend themselves to mention of diaper banks—for instance, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are good holidays for feel good stories about helping parents.
• Choose media opportunities carefully.
• You may want to consult with a professional public relations or advertising specialist who may also be willing to volunteer their services. Many professional public relations firms have pro bono programs or reduced fees for nonprofit organizations.
• Try to build lasting relationships with local reporters and their assignment editors—you will know who to call with a press release and the reporter will know to call you for a story on child or elder poverty.
• Be on the lookout for media figures who would make good board members.
Map Out a Fundraising Plan
Fund raising needs to be a top priority, even if the program runs on a moderate budget. Too often, nonprofit groups start up with the belief that money will appear as the mission is clearly stated and the need is great (the “Field of Dreams” approach). This is unrealistic. Fundraising is a competitive business and demands careful planning and persistent follow-through.
The information gathered during the feasibility research should give a preliminary idea of which organizations might be interested in the programs and how much support they might give. A comparison of that information to your projected expenditures will indicate how much will need to be raised.
There are many ways to approach fund raising—and they have all been written before. So, rather than try to summarize the many “how to’s” of fund raising, this manual directs users to a variety of organizations and publications that focus specifically on fundraising
One source of “fundraising” unique to diaper banks is diaper drives. Not only will diaper drives bring in diapers, which, to the extent they free funds that would otherwise be spend buying diapers add to the organization’s available funds, they often also bring in cash. Whenever hosting a diaper drive, be sure to publicize the fact that people can donate money, not just diapers.
You can also host “virtual diaper drives” by setting up a “wish list” with an internet retailer. For example, both Amazon and Babies R Us have wish lists on which diaper banks could identify the brands and sizes wanted and put onto their website, or email the link to their supporters. Amazon also has a link that allows you to link your wish list to your Facebook page.
Another possibility is to host a “coupon drive.” Although this is less helpful for larger diaper banks, which buy in bulk and can negotiate special discounts, this can be helpful for smaller diaper banks that are unable to buy in bulk.
Additionally, there are dozens of ways to raise money directly. Several approaches that groups embarking on a fund-raising strategy should consider are soliciting funds:
● From foundations
● From local corporations and businesses
● Through direct mail campaigns
● Through grassroots efforts and special events
Questions to Consider:
• Do we have any personal or organizational ties to potential funders? How can we best use these ties?
• How can our board be structured to help design and implement our fundraising plan? What fundraising expectations do we have for our board members?
• What kind of fund raising experience should we look for when hiring staff? Where can staff receive training in fundraising? How will fundraising responsibilities be delegated among the staff?
What does it take to be grant ready? Grant Readiness Checklist
Grant Space Podcast: What makes a grantmaker select one proposal over another? Find out from the people who make the decisions.
• Without adequate funding, programs become crisis management operations at best, or are not sustainable and are forced to close their doors.
• Getting started on sound financial ground will help you attract agencies, donors and grantors. Signs of fiscal instability will cause these groups to lose confidence in your program.
• Staff often become so involved in their programmatic work that they procrastinate on their fundraising responsibilities. So, assign fundraising responsibilities to one or two people, and closely monitor their efforts.
• Fundraising and staff and board composition are closely related. New staff and board members should be told about their fund-raising roles and responsibilities up front. There should be a conscious effort to recruit board members who have relationships with potential funders. Having to a prestigious board will give your program credibility with potential funders.
• Some funders, like the United Way and city and county governments, prefer to support well-established, ongoing and stable programs. While your program might someday meet their criteria, new programs are often more successful with other local funding sources (i.e., small businesses, family foundations, etc.).
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