Phase 1: Before You Begin


This section focuses on helping you decide whether a diaper bank is an appropriate and viable response to diaper need in your community. The more thorough and well organized your feasibility study or needs assessment is, the easier it will be to get your diaper bank up and running.

You are likely to find that many of your first ideas and assumptions are challenged. This is fine. Unexpected challenges do not automatically mean that a diaper bank is not needed or workable. They simply mean that some of your plans need to be modified. What is important is that you remain flexible and let the actuality of your findings guide your decisions.

During your research, you will meet representatives of the local anti-poverty community, the childcare community and/or the elder care community, health care providers, service agencies and potential donors. These contacts, often called constituencies, will ultimately play an important role in the success of your program. So, present your plans and research in a serious, well-informed, organized manner. In this sense, you will be using your research phase not only to collect information, but also to market your program’s credibility.

Your needs assessment or feasibility research can be expected to yield information about how your program should, and in some cases must, operate. In fact, often what should or must be done influences whether a program can be done. Your needs assessment or feasibility research can also provide background information that you can use to raise awareness in your area about diaper need in your community.

Measure Demand: Evaluate Potential Recipients


A Community Need Assessment will provide valuable information about what the current and potential diaper needs in the community may be. A complete needs analysis includes the following components: client identification, partner identification, current service providers, number of clients and other pertinent poverty statistics. Without proper information about the potential need, duplication of services and inability to sustain the project over the long term may be inevitable.

Be aware that Needs Assessments should be conducted every three to five years as part of the larger strategic planning process. Conceptualizing needs assessments, from the beginning, as a continuous process encourages the organization to take advantage of every encounter with a customer/client to find out more about what they want and expect. The assessments are required to decide which programs to start, which to change, and which to end.Perceiving a need is not the same as researching whether there is a viable method to sustain that service in a community. After running a couple of diaper drives, discuss the viability of a Diaper Bank in your area. As a part of a Community Needs Assessment a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) of a forming a local Diaper Bank will give a more complete picture of the viability of the organization.

A formal Needs Assessment will assist with focusing on goals and objectives which can lead to the establishment a 501(c)(3) organization and ultimately meeting the community’s diaper needs. Trends and issues should be considered: constituents, structure, culture, economic capabilities, interested parties, competitors, political climate, legislative abilities, regulations and concerns. The information generated in a needs assessment is critical when establishing an agency Case Statement.

Questions to Consider:

Who are your potential recipient agencies? Where are they? Are there any agencies that currently distribute diapers?

How many diapers and what types of diapers are needed by our potential recipient agencies? What populations do they serve?

Will the potential agencies be willing to collect pertinent statistics about the recipients?

More Resources:

Community Action Partnership’s online assessment tool

Community Tool Box’s Community Needs Assessment

Missouri Association for Community Action’s Community Tool Kit.

Raise Awareness of Diaper Need in Your Community


Diaper need is often not well known or understood, although awareness has been rising. Potential supporters of your program may need to be educated about diaper need in your community. People who do not have small children rarely consider diapers, and are often surprised to learn that nearly 1 in 3 families in America struggle to afford diapers for their children and that federal assistance programs like SNAP and WIC do not provide for diapers.

An insufficient supply of diapers can cause a family to spiral deeper into poverty and distress. Most childcare programs require parents to bring diapers, so parents without sufficient diapers cannot leave their children in childcare to attend work or school. Families unable to afford diapers are forced to choose between a range of undesirable alternatives that can severely impact the health and wellbeing of both their child and their household. A survey commissioned by Feeding America found that many families report cutting back on basics such as food, utilities or child care in order to purchase diapers for their children. Other families report leaving their children in soiled diapers for a longer period of time than they otherwise would have. Some families even resort to cleaning out or drying soiled disposable diapers and reusing them in order to meet their diaper needs.

These alternatives can have severe repercussions for the health, economic and emotional wellbeing of the child, parent and household. Leaving children in soiled diapers longer than they should can lead to diaper rash, infections, irritability and difficulty in mother-child attachment. More immediately, leaving their children in diapers longer between changes can cause the child to cry until the diaper is changed, adding yet another stressor to a parent struggling to make ends meet. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found a link between maternal depressive symptoms and diaper need.

These consequences can lead to lower self-esteem and depression among parents who are not able to obtain adequate diapers. They can also lead to fewer economic opportunities for parents and greater health risks for children and their families.

In the case of older children and adults with disabilities who suffer from incontinence, many are unable to use insurance or Medicare or Medicaid funds to purchase incontinence supplies, which can cost more than $2 apiece. A lack of incontinent supplies may hinder mobility and a person’s ability to live independently, and can cause embarrassment, affecting self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.

While the majority of families in the United States are aware of food banks, few are aware of the existence of diaper banks. One of your first tasks in starting a diaper bank is raising awareness of the need for the diaper bank in your community. As we will discuss, there are many ways to do this—diaper drives; speaking at local social clubs, professional organizations, schools, and fraternal organizations; issuing press releases in connection with the formation of your diaper bank or in connection with your first distribution of diapers to agencies. Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter are also very effective ways to communicate your message.

When discussing diaper need, offer both statistics and personal stories of how diaper need impacts local families’ lives. Work with local social service agencies to gather these statistics and stories. Also, be ready to address questions regarding cloth diapers and the environmental impact of disposable diapers. Although some diaper banks are able to make a meaningful difference by distributing cloth diapers, cloth diapers may not be practical for families without access to private laundering facilities or whose children attend childcare programs that accept only disposable diapers. We recommend that diaper banks that are interested in distributing cloth diapers verify that their clients have laundering facilities and/or provide access to laundering facilities as part of their service. We also recommend that diaper banks give training to clients on how to care for cloth diapers, and offer a trial period for families to see if cloth diapering works for them.


Questions to Consider:

What is the need in our community?

How many children under three years old live in low-income families here?

Do local agencies have examples of how diapers have made a difference in people’s lives?

What is the policy regarding washing diapers at the local Laundromats?

What requirements do area childcare programs have regarding diapers?


More Resources:

Diaper Need and Its Impact on Child Health: Pediatrics Article

U.S. Census

Economic Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

KIDS COUNT 2015 Data Book

National Center for Children in Poverty

Children’s Defense Fund

Feeding America: In Short Supply


• Raising awareness of diaper need is the first step to addressing the need.

• Be sure to personalize diaper need with stories of real people in your community.

• Learn about diaper need on a national level by reading some some of the articles link here.

• Use statistics to describe diaper need in terms of the local community.

• Tell your friends and families and social groups what you have learned about diaper need.

• Seek out opportunities to speak to local civic groups and media outlets to raise awareness.

• Craft a 30 second “elevator speech” about diaper need in your area. You’ll be ready when the topic comes up!


Hold a Diaper Drive to Evaluate Community Potential


Diaper banks begin with diaper drives. Initially there is an agency or group (formal or informal, a company, school, congregation, nonprofit agency, or government entity) that decides to host a drive helping one or two local agencies or a diaper bank. There are many great tools available to encourage these diaper drives that the National Diaper Bank Network is happy to share with you. Diaper drives can yield large numbers of diapers, and they provide a forum for you to share your story about community need with small groups. Diaper drives can be a great first step in raising awareness of diaper need and the need for a diaper bank in the community.Starting a Diaper Bank is really about creating community wide diaper drives that are on-going. Media partners can make your inaugural event a huge success. In metropolitan areas such as Phoenix a month long community wide diaper drive successfully brought in 600,000 diapers. First drives can bring in anything from hundreds of diapers to tens of thousands, or even more diapers. After a few drives, you will have a basis to evaluate how much you will be able to rely on drives and in-kind donations and how much you will need to raise money to buy enough diapers. Some diaper banks are able to acquire the diapers they distribute through diaper drives. Through your diaper drive, you may also be able to identify people who would be willing to support your effort with donations and/or volunteer time as you move toward starting a diaper bank.

A diaper drive is like a food drive–only for diapers. By holding a diaper drive, you will help babies in your community receive a basic essential, and raise awareness of the fact that many mothers struggle to obtain enough diapers for their children.IM_15_How_To_Host_A_Diaper_Drive

Use the NDBN Diaper Drive Tool kit
Be creative!


Diaper Drive Steps:

1. Find an organization that will receive your donated diapers. If there is no diaper bank in your area, contact agencies like women’s shelters, food pantries, publicly funded childcare centers, health clinics and church programs.

2. Pick a theme. It can be simple, like “Moms helping Moms,” “Girl Scouts Giving Back,” or more elaborate, like “Stuff the bus” in which people are encouraged to donate enough diapers to fill a bus. Set a goal and develop a way to track your progress, such as with a thermometer chart.

3. Set a date and find a location for your diaper drive. It should last at least a week and as long as a month. You’ll need a location where people can drop off diapers–ideally, somewhere central, like the local library, a church or business willing to help out. You can have more than one location.

4. Find volunteers who can help collect and deliver donated diapers. Ask your friends and neighbors to help.

5. Spread the word! Send press releases to local media outlets, post notices in local businesses (especially those that are drop off locations), announce the drive through Facebook and Twitter.

6. Collect the diapers and deliver them to your partner organization.

7. Let everyone know how it went. Send out a press release with your partner organization about the drive.

8. Don’t be disappointed if you do not meet your original goal. The first time you do anything can be hard.
Download the How to Host a Diaper Drive Infographic.


• Publicity is the key to any successful diaper drive. Media outlets are often looking for feel good stories about community wide activity to help others. Work with your partner organization to issue press releases before and after the drive.

• As with potential recipients, you may eventually want some of the potential donors as partners in your program. Work to establish sound, professional relationships with them.

• Seek out leaders in your local child care and/or elder services, education, and health organizations. Having their support will build the program’s credibility with potential donors and potential recipient agencies. They may also make good board members.

• You may want to consider asking especially enthusiastic donors to help you find other potential donors.

• Don’t be discouraged if you do not receive a large number of diapers on your first few efforts. Evaluate what worked and what did not, and adjust accordingly during your next try.

Working with the Local Anti-Poverty Community


In many cases, a diaper bank’s long-term success will rest on its ability to gain the support and cooperation of other local anti-poverty and community service organizations. So, program planners should get to know their local community service community.

Most communities have some form of an anti-poverty and/or child welfare network. Food banks, religious institutions, public health and community service organizations will often be able to help program planners identify organizations which would be interested in partnering with a diaper bank.

If there are other diaper banks in your community, an additional diaper bank may not be needed. It might be possible to merge your efforts or help the existing diaper bank expand its services.

Coordination with other anti-poverty and child welfare groups is important:

● It gives your diaper bank greater credibility with potential donors.
● It appeals to agencies that work with more than one local anti-poverty and/or child welfare group and may otherwise feel they are in the middle of opposing forces.
● It gives your diaper bank a ready-made technical assistance network.
● It can prevent the trials and errors of going it alone.


Take a look at the NDBN member network!


Questions to Consider:

What are the leading components of our anti-poverty and child welfare communities? Who are the leading players? How do the members of the communities work together? Has a network developed?

How can we best introduce ourselves to the leaders of the local anti-poverty community? How do we get involved in the network?

How would our program complement other anti-poverty programs?

Are there any groups that are already collecting and distributing diapers? If so, is there a need for another group? Would the new program be expected to cooperate with the established ones? Might they merge efforts? How could the relationship between the programs be structured?



When approaching established anti-poverty and child welfare programs, you should emphasize that your diaper bank will complement–not compete with–their efforts to help babies and families. Stress your willingness to work cooperatively, to be open to a back and forth style of communication and to avoid duplication of services.


Assess Potential Expenses & Sources of Support


It would be premature to begin plotting the specific details of a program’s operating budget and fund-raising strategy during the preliminary research period. After all, a program’s probable expenses and likely sources of income cannot be projected until you have decided how your diaper bank will be structured and how it will operate. (Organizational and operational models are discussed in Phase II of the manual.) However, it is not too early to begin estimating the costs and resources of the program. Things to consider include overhead costs such as a space to operate, communications systems (e.g., telephones, computers), storage space, and transportation (if you chose to deliver the diapers). And of course, there are the diapers. Some of these items you may be able to obtain as donations, but a general idea of the expenses you will face will help you estimate the amount of money you will need to raise and the number of diapers you will be able to distribute.

● Your program budget may be larger in the first year than in subsequent years. A first year’s budget will comprise both start-up costs and general operating costs. Start-up costs may include such major capital expenses as office furnishings, computers, vehicle, and warehouse equipment.

● The viability of most nonprofits depends on meeting financial demands. Planners should have strong indications that they can attract sufficient financial support before launching a nonprofit endeavor.

● Potential donors and recipient agencies will be more responsive to a diaper bank that has thought carefully about its finances. They may not want to get involved in a program with a weak financial base or vague financial plans. You will need to create a budget that you can share with others.

Ideally, a program’s potential income should be at least close to its anticipated expenses. If it doesn’t, re-plan operations to meet the level of funding that seems to be available.


Questions to Consider:

Roughly how much cash support will we need to get the program up and running? What are the approximate start-up costs (equipment, initial supplies, etc.)? What are our approximate operating costs (salaries, rent, etc.)? Which of these direct cash expenses can be reduced or eliminated with non-cash support (volunteer staffing, professional assistance, and donated equipment and supplies)?

What are the program’s potential sources of cash income? Consider individuals, corporations, and foundations, etc.

What are the program’s potential sources of noncash assistance (e.g., volunteer staff and professional assistance, donated equipment, supplies, diapers, office space, warehouse space, professional time)?



• Be realistic. Fundraising is time and labor intensive, and most donors get many more requests for funding than they can support. A diaper bank will likely compete with several older and better-known anti-poverty programs for the same charitable dollars. Do not assume that doing good work will make money appear.

• Always look for hidden costs. They are everywhere!

• Do not undervalue non-cash support, which can include donated professional services, donated advertising space or time, and in-kind gifts of equipment and supplies.

• Review the annual reports of other organizations in the local anti-poverty community. These reports can give insights into the potential community of donors and granting agencies that might be inclined to support your project.

Develop a Board of Directors


The key to a vital organization is the development of an effective board of directors. A diaper bank board of directors can help identify the community needs, as well as define and realize the program’s purposes. In addition, the board should be able to provide adequate financial resources and other forms of support for your diaper bank, while giving leadership to the development of programs and services. Many people define a board as the three D’s: Donors, Doers and Door-openers. Try to recruit board members from all three categories (a few board members may be able to fill two or three of these roles).

The board’s fundamental responsibility is to:

● Satisfy itself that everyone connected to your diaper bank understands its reasons for existing; this usually takes the form of a mission statement.

● Select the executive director through a carefully considered search process and establish personnel policies that include carefully defined roles and responsibilities for the board and the executive.

● Support the executive director and review his or her performance on a regularly scheduled basis. Adjust pay based on evaluation and resources. Maintain position or end based on evaluation.

● Ensure effective organizational planning by adopting sound business policies, by-laws, and charters.

● Ensure adequate resources.

● Manage resources effectively by helping to develop and approve the annual budget.

● Enhance your diaper bank’s public image.

It is important that board members understand their responsibilities as board members. Some programs lay out the requirements and expectations for board members in an agreement. Some programs have requirements for board donations to the diaper bank, attendance at board meetings, and board member participation in fundraising activities.

Some diaper banks considering forming an advisory board in addition to the governing board of directors. Unlike policy or governing boards, advisory boards usually do not carry any official power. While an advisory board is not a necessary component diaper bank governance, a well-selected advisory board can offer technical assistance and advice, important relationships with local constituencies, and an increased media profile.

If you choose to have an advisory board, consider asking people who fit within the following profiles to serve on your advisory board.

● People who can help the program build relationships with important local constituencies, such as high-ranking figures from other social service or anti-poverty organizations, the childcare and/or elder* care industries, people of means

● People experienced in computer system design and staff training

● Well-recognized and well-respected individuals in the local community whose affiliation with your diaper bank will boost its credibility.


Questions to Consider:

What skill sets are we looking for in a board of directors? What qualities are we looking for?

Are the prospective board members enthusiastic about our mission and are they willing to donate substantial time to developing this organization?

Are the executive’s and board’s roles and responsibilities clear and does everyone understand the expectations for board members?


More Resources:


Boardsource– a go-to resource for nonprofits in all phases

Grantspace: Developing a Nonprofit Board

What to include in a Board Manual

Sample Diaper Bank By-laws

Sample Board Member Letter of Commitment

Resources for Board Members: Becoming a More Effective Nonprofit Board



• Do not expect volunteer board members to be full-time authorities on programmatic, financial, and managerial issues, or to commit to numerous and lengthy meetings.

• Board members should be free of any conflict of interest.

• The board should develop a strategic plan for the program that is comprehensive and forward looking.

• Effective fundraising is one measure of the board’s capabilities, commitment, and influence.

• The board can only monitor the budget’s implementation if it has clear, intelligible, accurate, and timely financial reports.

• The board of directors is responsible for governing the organization, but not for managing it (unless the organization does not employ staff).

• Solid personnel policies and procedures, grievance protocols, and an especially clear understanding of the executive’s responsibility for hiring, developing, and releasing staff help ensure proper decorum in this area.

• Realize that without concrete responsibilities and tasks, board members may start to feel unchallenged and disengaged from the program.

• Some programs recommend limiting the terms of membership (to two or three years for example). This may keep the board from getting stale or becoming individualized, and will allow the program to continually keep reaching out to new constituencies.

• If you choose to have an advisory board, be alert to the fact that some advisory boards have been known to try to expand their authority into policy-making. Make clear the limitations of the board’s responsibilities.

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