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How to collect donations


olmsb4d2
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This was the first year that I asked for collections and after seeing how much others have collected I'd like to know how you do it.

The opening of the show mentions that we are asking for donations on behalf of St Jude's and there is an intermission announcement strictly for donations. There was always 5 or 6 cars out there and someone must be offering limo rides to view area Christmas displays.....Each night several stretch limos would be out there.

So how do you promote and get so much in donations?

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I'd like to hear the same. We didn't collect this year, as it was our first year. That said, I estimate that 1 of every 3 cars asked if we were accepting donations. So, we are considering it for next year. I don't want people not to come because they feel obligated.

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George Simmons

First of all, make sure it's for something that will either be recognizable or compelling. If it's for your son's Cub Scout pack or your daughter's band trip to Disneyland don't be surprised to see most people pass it by.

We collect for the local foodshelf. We're in your face about it insomuch as it's mentioned about three times an hour. The announcements (some by the Demented Elf, the rest by me) are friendly, light-hearted requests - no pressure and they're in the rotation with all the others. In my mind they're a part of the display just like the songs. I don't want people to feel obligated either, but if you don't tell them they might not know it's going on. I know that many people won't contribute and I'm okay with that. Those who do contribute excite me enough to cover the rest.

I make it a point to stress that "This isn't for us - every penny goes directly to the food shelf and stays right here in the community." (I think that's an important distinction to make and if you're not doing it that way then maybe you need to take a look in the mirror and do some re-assessing.) Then I finish up with "So please give what you can to help us help our neighbors."

Later on during the season the announcement says something like "if you've already dropped a few jingle bells into our food shelf collection box, we thank you for your generosity. If this is your first time here, Welcome..." and then I go into the food shelf spiel.

I've asked a few people whom I know and who've been by plenty of times whether they find the food shelf announcements offensive and they all looked at me like I was crazy for even asking. One said that they don't even notice them any more - kind of like commercials on the radio. :) Another said if people don't like being asked to contribute a buck or two to see something as cool as anything they've ever seen before, but don't have a problem paying 50 bucks to take their kids to a crappie movie, then there's something wrong with them. (Hey, I told you these people were friends.)

In our case, the food shelf connection was the hook that got the TV people and the other media interested. So whether or not they'd been by in previous years, most people knew before they even left their house that we were accepting donations.

Another thing we do is give out info sheets and also free candy canes. Those are in the mailbox atop the same post the collection box is attached. And having done it both ways, I recommend giving out the big candy canes as opposed to the little ones. The generosity surprises and impresses almost everyone, and I believe it helps to grease the giving skids a little. (Wait until they're 75-90% off at your favorite dept store - which is right now - and scarf them up for 10-25 cents per dozen. I just finished processing another 150 dozen more for next year which cost me 37 bucks and change.)

We also post it on the website. All-in-all most people either know beforehand or soon after they arrive. In four seasons now I've yet to have a single person complain in any way. Well, that's not exactly true - one lady complained that I wasn't including other charities - like her church's support for foreign orphans. I thanked her for sharing her thoughts.

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I agree with George....

Up until midway thru the season I had relied on the paper, local blog, a mention on a local TV show about taking donations and the big black garbage can (for food donations...pic below) to let people know.

Then I added a few promos intermingled between the songs and saw the giving go WAAAAY up!! I just need a more visible donation box for the cash donations next year as most people had trouble seeing the slot in the left hand Candy Cane Pole (also in pic).

So let people know that you are collecting...just be discreet and not over the top about it...and have things look professional!!!

Oh...I also advertised that we accepted donations via PayPal thru our website...got quite a lot that way...


Attached files 300136=16544-Food Bank.jpg

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I love the food donation idea. I think more folks are more willing to donate food than money.

Not to mention, there's not a lot of "BAD" people that are going to run off with food.

I think that's what I'll do this year.

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Brian Mitchell

We put a guest book on top of the donation box. We don't ask people for donations but we do ask them to sign the guest book. Once they are at the donation box, most will then donate.
A guest book is also great fun as you get to see where people come from to see your display. It's cool to see signatures from Brazil, Japan, Uraguay, China , England, Russia, etc...

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This was our first year collecting donations. We choose a local aniimal shelter (Animal Welfare League of Arlington) While handing out candy canes I'd just meantion we were collecting. I made the box from a mailbox and added a wood "tree" on it (Got the box free from the maker) and then added a interactive little light show when they donated. We got over $1100.00 which kinda shocked the Wife (thought we'd get a couple hundred) and also shocked the AWLA :D In just the past two days we have also gotten letters fron the AWLA. One stated that someone had made a donation on behalf of our show, and yesterday we got a letter for the Director, stating that the were VERY happy with what we had done. He stated he would be willing to contact the press (but we defered on that) about our show for next year. It was a bit of a form letter, but he added a personal note at the bottom.

Just go for it and see how things work out, you may not get much, but the charity will be VERY happy with any help.

Tom Straub

Attached files 300212=16545-DSC02173.JPG

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I have a simple 20 second announcement in the middle of shows thanking people for coming and letting them know that we are collecting for St. Judes. I purposely say in the announcement that they don't need to donate but can if they enjoy the show and wish to help those less fortunate. I also make sure that they know 100% of all donations go to St. Judes and not towards my electric bill or for new lights. Finally, I also let them know the lockbox is emptied nightly and under security camera so their donations are safe. I received 4xs the donations I expected.
Food drives are a good charity to go with but be prepared to haul in loads of goods every night and have a place to store it. I found cash and checks are a lot easier to manage.

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I would love to take donations since our family are big supporters of both a local food bank and Saint Jude's; my daughters big cause. The reason I don't is that my street is pretty crowded with traffic coming in two directions, limited parking and an occasional double parker. My worst fear is for some parent to hand a couple of dollars to litle Johnnie to run over to the donation box and have them get hit by a another car.
Next year I am going to put in a little sound bite during the show reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas and ask them to remember those of us less fortunate. Doubt whether it would generate as much as a donation box, but might cause people to do something.

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George Simmons

David Rise wrote:

I love the food donation idea. I think more folks are more willing to donate food than money.

I'm not sure I agree with that. Most people have a spare buck or two in their pocket. I'm not sure the same thing can be said of having spare food with them should they decide on a whim to see the lights.

We actively discourage food donations. Usually it's below freezing around here in December and Murphy's Law being what it is, we've gotten food donations while we weren't home that ultimately needed to be discarded because the food shelf won't accept canned items where the can shows evidence of having been frozen. You'd think people who live in this part of the country would realize that, but it doesn't seem to work that way.

Also, in talks with the people who run the food shelf, they commonly see many canned items that are past their expiration date and they summarily discard those items each and every time. They figure about a quarter of the canned goods they receive are unuseable.

But it goes farther than that. When they get a can of tomato soup (the favorite flavor of donaters, it seems) what they have is a can of tomato soup. When they get a greenback, they can leverage that into a lot more than just one can of soup. Plus it allows them to procure needed items that people don't ordinarily donate. Not to mention leveraging the money against matching donation grants where/when those pop up from time to time.

My recommendation to all who are considering getting into food shelf donations is first meet with the folks at your local food shelf and find out from them what works best in your area, or what works best with the way they run things. I guarantee they're going to do everything they can to help make your donation program a success.
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Everyone, thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences. I've read several that have given me ideas for next season.

The weather has been really nice here and each evening I've been working on taking things down and putting them away. I have been pleasantly surprised to have people stop by and tell me how much they enjoyed the lights and ask if they could still donate. I was at work yesterday and my son stopped at the house and worked on taking things down which was a pleasant surprise in itself but when I got home there was a plate of cookies and some money on my desk. I called and thanked him and he said the cookies and the money were from someone that stopped by to say how much they enjoyed the lights. What a deal!

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jim6918 wrote:

I would love to take donations since our family are big supporters of both a local food bank and Saint Jude's; my daughters big cause. The reason I don't is that my street is pretty crowded with traffic coming in two directions, limited parking and an occasional double parker. My worst fear is for some parent to hand a couple of dollars to litle Johnnie to run over to the donation box and have them get hit by a another car.
Next year I am going to put in a little sound bite during the show reminding people of the true meaning of Christmas and ask them to remember those of us less fortunate. Doubt whether it would generate as much as a donation box, but might cause people to do something.

That's exactly why I don't ask for donations. I don't think the street would handle the delays it would take to have people get out of their cars and walk over to the donation box. I may experiment next year and try it anyway. I think the local Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City would be my choice.
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CKSedg wrote:

That's exactly why I don't ask for donations. I don't think the street would handle the delays it would take to have people get out of their cars and walk over to the donation box.
Maybe I am in a unique situation...but I have more people park and walk up to my display than sit in their cars...but we had some pretty dry weather this year (for Seattle anyway).

I think we had two or three nights of rain and that was AFTER Christmas...but still had people standing on the sidewalks watching the show...

But in Seattle you learn to deal with the rain if you want to do things outside...
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doug petschke wrote:

red solo cup?

aaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!! I hate that song.
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Thanks for all your advice everyone. I'm gonna show this thread to the wife (something I'm not sure I've done before - hey don't want her accessing all my secrets). I think she'll agree that we should pull the trigger. We were both waffling.

Now, testraub, you mentioned a special animation when you get a donation. Can you share what the animation is? We were thinking about doing the same.

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