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Admin Pro Forum

Starting a donation program

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Question: I recently attended a seminar for administrative assistants and one of the participants described a program she initiated at her workplace. Corporate travelers are asked to bring any unused travel-size soaps, shampoos and lotions from their hotel stays back to the office. The products are collected and donated to local homeless and domestic-abuse shelters. I'm interested in beginning a similar program for my employer. Does anyone have any background information about related programs or advice on how to start?  -- Ann, Wausau, WI


Yes, I have done this in the past and hope to start another, similar program of donating to women's shelters locally. In whatever common area you have at work, provide a box and some small flyers describing the need and listing what can be used for these woman who often escape their abusive homes with nothing but what is in their purses. Encourage your co-workers to think of these victims of abuse who are trying to re-start their lives, whenever they travel or when they buy toiletries for themselves.

Often garage sales are great sources of this kind of unused 'sample sized' items: shampoo, lotions, contact lens solution, mouthwash, toothpaste, bar and liquid soaps, sunscreen, bath products, etc. Encourage the seller to donate to the shelter anything he/she doesn't sell. I have been given bags of samples to take with me free of charge!

I have not heard of this program in the workplace but I did attend a Union Convention a few years back and this was an initiative that was announced regularly throughout the conference. I assume that the head office delivered these to a local women's shelter.
First of all, I would speak to your manager and the HR manager to see if this would be allowed. If yes, then I would use newsletters or email lists that go to the employees. First contact a few organizations to see if they would be interested in partnering with your company. Then let people know who would receive the collected items and set up a central location box where people can drop off their donations. If you have on travel agent that books all the travel for your company, you may ask them to attach a note in the iteneraries about this program. If you set it up, people will come....
Paddy, Calgary, Alberta

This appears to be a worthy effort, however I wonder if such a program may inadvertently increase the cost of doing business.

I don't work in the hotel industry but according to a friend of mine, that stuff is pricey because hotels frequently pay to have their logo printed on it.

She suggests that it would be better to find out who makes the soap (American Hotel Registry - they have a web site) and see if they want to participate in a nation wide program. Or contact the hotel and see if they would like to work with you to set up a program. Often hotels have extras that they will never use just sitting around, esp if the hotel has recently upgraded or changed owners or logos.

My church does personal necessity kits for a women and children's shelter, but does not encourage people to steal* to do it. They use an eight week cycle in which one item a week (toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, etc.) is particularly solicited, although of course they would not turn down a donation that was a week or two off cycle! They put together complete kits every two months and deliver them.

*Taking more than you personally need of the small soaps, shampoos, etc. that hotels provide as a courtesy to forgetful guests is dishonest and drives up their cost of doing business.

Paddy gives great advice about making sure your administration will not object, and also partnering with specific organizations that will welcome your donations. (Find out what they want and need before you start collecting!) I like Kathy's suggestion about yard sales, but make sure the items are unopened and clean.

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