Running a campus pantry means soliciting donations – lots, and lots, and lots of donations. Here are a few tips on how to best manage intake on the things folks want to give you.
Take everything: even if someone donates something to you that you cannot use, take it. Why? Because when you take a donation and you say “thank you,” the person who donates is more likely to give again in the future. Can’t use what they gave? Pass it along to another agency who can use it, or recycle it. It is very rare that someone will donate something that is completely unusable. Be the ones donors think of when they want to give.
Create clarity: in order to get the donations you CAN use, create a policy on donations that is made available to the public. It’s a good idea to have this on your website, and to also have it in PDF or Word format so you can email it to folks. Post it by your phone so staff can reference it when someone calls.
Make a wish list: often pantries will be contacted by groups who want to do some food raising for you. Have a list of items that your clients need the most, or what is wanted but hard to get. This can also include equipment like shelves, or refrigerators. Have this information posted publicly, and also be sure you and your staff/volunteers know it off the tops of their heads.
It IS ok to have boundaries: if a donor keeps giving you things that you cannot use (like expired food, or items you can’t give away), it is OK to let them know. Make sure they hear that you are grateful that they are donating, and follow up with a list of things you can use. Many times folks will change it up and give within your guidelines.
Ask: it is appropriate to ask for donations. Write letters, send links to your wishlist out through listservs, make posters, or host drives to collect items you need. The worst thing that will happen is that people will say no, and if you ask you are likely to get more than you were hoping for.