How to Start Your Own Shoe Drive (or any other group donation)

In March, I decided that by May 1st I would try to collect at least 200 pairs of new/lightly-worn shoes to donate to Soles 4 Souls Canada to help wear out poverty. As you may have noticed, it’s already June, and I didn’t even hit 50 pairs by the first of this month. Along the way, I developed more and more ideas to make the next one a success, as well as dealt with some of the mistakes I made through out the journey.

Should you ever decide to host your own drive of some sort, hopefully these words of advice will help you:

  1. Find an organization who’s values match your own. Personally, I am very skeptical when it comes to donating to charities, and I have major trust issues. After doing my research, I knew Soles 4 Souls was the organization for me. I was thrilled to be able to make a difference and help those in poverty without actually spending a single penny. For me, it’s challenging to trust organizations who ask for money only, and Soles 4 Souls gave me the opportunity to get together a bunch of shoes that people no longer needed in order to help those who could get a lot more use out of them.
  2. Host your drive when the rest of the things going on in your life aren’t so hectic. I didn’t really think it through when I picked the dates for my shoe drive, considering I planned to collect by May 1st, and my last exam for the semester was April 26th. Between the final assignments and studying for exams, I wasn’t able to prioritize getting people’s shoes together for my drive. After extending it to June 1st, more obstacles came together, and I didn’t have the time or resources to make it as successful as possible.
  3. Storage, storage, storage! Keeping inventory of my own stuff is a challenge already, let alone collecting and storing other people’s worn (and possibly smelly) shoes. I live in a very small town home with my mom, where we have a lot more furniture and stuff than we should, so storing the shoes at home wasn’t an option. With a lot of car issues (let’s call it that) going on, I was having trouble figuring out the location and storage logistics of making it a successful drive.
  4. Figure out your “packaging” plan. After having collected shoes from a few people, I ended up having paper bags falling apart full of shoes. It’s a matter of separating each individual pair, and having a practical way of carrying the shoes to and from the car. I ended up separating each pair in individual plastic bags (grocery sized), and then throwing them all together in large garbage bags.
  5. MARKETING! I was sure that once I’d post a few Tweets, Instagrams, and Facebook statuses, I’d have a lineup of people at my door ready to give up their useless footwear. Oh, how wrong I was! It wasn’t enough, and this was an event I had to push upon people every single day, which I failed to do.
  6. Finding a location for collecting on one day, all at once. What probably would have worked for getting people’s shoes together, would have been to host a “collection time slot” at a community centre or on someone’s driveway.

All in all, I’m pretty upset I couldn’t reach my goal of 200+ pairs. I definitely learned a lot from the experience, and hopefully next time I set out on a similar venture, it’ll be more successful. I did succeed in getting rid of all the shoes I don’t wear/need anymore though!

If you are interested in starting your own drive, travelling to volunteer to help those in living poverty, or just finding a place to drop off your shoes, you can visit soles4souls.org.

Have you ever hosted your own drive? What worked and what didn’t work for you?

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