So you have a small group of guys, you have a passion for social change and gender justice, and you have done some self-education so you feel pretty comfortable you won’t make a huge mess* (if you haven’t, this is for you). Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go out and do something that feels like you are directly helping women who need it? Have a supply drive for a local domestic violence/battered women’s shelter**! Not only will it give you a sense of having concretely benefitted survivors of violence, but also has a few other benefits that recommend it:
- It will put you in touch with a local women’s organization, and show them that you are available and want to help them out; they may be able to then include you in later projects as well.
- It involves being out in a public place and interacting with a lot of people, so your group will become more visible.
- It is easily referenced: from now on, you can describe this as something you have done when people want to know about your group. It is also very photogenic, if it would benefit your group to have pictures or publicity.
- It is relatively quick and easy to put together
- Having an early, concrete, visible success can help your group with motivation and with recruiting more members.
What you’ll need:
- At least few weeks prep time
- The ability to print out supply wish-lists to hand out.
- Transport for the supplies
- Optional: fliers, pamphlets, or other promotional materials for your group or the organization you are benefitting
- Optional: pins, buttons, t-shirts, name tags, or something else that marks your group members
- Optional: a banner, poster, or display of some kind, to draw attention
- Optional: a small folding table
- Contact your local domestic violence shelter or similar organization. If you don’t know where to start with this (other than google), these online search engines might help:
- Tell them you would like to organize a supply drive for them, briefly describe your group, and ask if they would be interested. Make it clear that you want to do the work, but also want them involved so that you don’t accidentally do something that makes more work for them later. Ask them what supplies they need (some shelters will make it easy for you by posting a supply drive wish list online) and discuss drop-off logistics. See if they have materials for you to distribute while you are out, and go pick them up. Make sure your members learn about their organization, in case people ask you questions about it.
- Find a store that is willing to host your supply drive. Call, ask to speak to a manager, put on your best formal voice, and tell them you are interested in scheduling a supply drive at their store. Usually they like having you there because it means their customers spend more money. Schedule date and time, and make sure to ask about any policies they have that might apply to you (some might say you have to stay in a certain area, or cannot be there during certain times; some may be able to help you by offering to match your donations or put up fliers by the registers as well).
- Print many more copies of your supply wish-lists than you think you need (you will be trying to hand one to every customer entering the store), and create or collect any other materials you need.
- Get boxes. If you plan on being there for a long time, you will collect a lot of stuff, so it may be worth contacting a moving company or office supply store about donating boxes to you.
- Figure out the logistics for moving the supplies from the store to the drop-off point. If you anticipate having more than a few carloads, see if anyone has access to a truck, van, or trailer. Recognized student groups can sometimes ask the university to provide transportation (and the university will likely want pictures to publicize the good work their students are doing). If necessary, you can ask a car or truck rental place about donating the use of a vehicle. If you will be at the grocery store for more than a few hours, if may be worth having someone take a load or two to the drop-off point in the middle of the event.
- Decide who will be at the event during what hours. If you work in shifts, it helps to have them overlap some; if you might take some supplies over during the event, make sure you have enough people so some can keep collecting at the store and some can drive over.
- Show up, put up your banner, set up your table, put out your materials, and start collecting supplies! Try to set up somewhere that makes you visible and has a lot of people walking by you, but doesn’t get in their way or create a nuisance. Whenever you see someone coming towards the store, smile and walk towards them, hold out the flier, and ask them very briefly if they would be willing to buy supplies for the organization you are supporting. Get to the “buy some supplies while you are shopping” part quickly, so they know you aren’t asking for money; don’t stand in their way, but don’t be shy about walking with them for a little bit either. Most people like helping, and since you’re just asking them to buy things when they’re already going in to buy things, you are making it easy for them to do something they will feel good about. Give them the flier and tell them that anything on the list would be greatly appreciated.
- When people start coming out with donations, thank them, collect the supplies in a visible place, and if they still have the wish list, take it back and re-use it. If anyone asks questions, don’t be afraid to engage in a conversation about your group, the organization you are benefitting, etc. including showing them any pamphlets or resources you have. Don’t forget to take some pictures!
- Bring the supplies to the drop-off point. Ask where you can put them and if there is anything else you can do to help while you are there. Take a picture of the pile of supplies you collected, so you can look back with a sense of satisfaction and purpose.
- Write a formal thank-you letter, preferably on letterhead, to the store for hosting your supply drive. You may want to do it again sometime, so you want to leave a positive impression.
- Leave some comments below to tell us how it went, give feedback on these directions, and give future groups more advice on how to make this project a success!
*Don’t worry – you’ll probably never feel fully sure that you won’t make a mess, so you just have to jump in when you’re only mostly sure and be willing to apologize and learn from your mistakes. Really, if you ever feel entirely sure you won’t make a mistake, you have probably just made a mistake in that you are no longer willing to hear advice or critique, and therefore aren’t being accountable to the people you say you want to work with. For an example of why that’s bad, read up on what happened at the National Organization for Men Against Sexism’s annual conference (and after).
** I first got this idea from NOMAS Boston, the group in the youtube video. I do not know how they began doing it, but want to acknowledge and thank them and the predecessors, likely feminist women, who originated the idea.