For the past seven years, Friendship Baptist Church in The Colony has come together to throw a huge back-to-school rally, complete with games, food, and most importantly, backpacks with free school supplies for families in need.
When the ministry first started, they distributed 100 backpacks, but each year, the numbers have grown. Last year, the church handed out 835 backpacks, and had over 1,000 people pass through the rally. Rosa Bailey, the Marketing Ministry servant leader at Friendship Baptist, coordinates the event and explained that the rally brings people from all different faiths and backgrounds together. This opens up a meaningful opportunity for ministry and evangelism.
Bailey knows that organizing a large event like this can be overwhelming at first. To help churches get started, she has provided some tips that she has learned about how to organize an amazing school supply drive:
Identify what supplies you need
Go online to your local school district’s website and locate the school supply lists. Find the items that each list has in common, like pencils, paper, and pens. Divide your lists into kindergarten, elementary, junior high and high school. Since kindergarten has many unique supplies, like blunt scissors as opposed to sharp ones, Bailey advises you to keep them in a category of their own. Then, determine how many backpacks for each category you would like to make. You can divide the total number of backpacks evenly, or if you notice that your community has a larger number of a certain age group, you can make more of that category.
Build a budget
Now that you know how much of everything you’re going to need, you can begin building your budget. For Friendship Baptist Church, this event is an important part of their yearly budget. Treat it as an outreach event and ask your church if they can contribute to the event. Consider taking up a special offering or collection for the drive.
For more funding, Bailey suggests talking to local stores and corporations. Many large businesses have grants available for charity work in their area.
Partner with local organizations
While there is no promise that your local restaurants will agree to help, asking never hurts. Organizations and local businesses are often looking for ways to help their community. Bailey built relationships with many of the fast-food restaurant owners in the area. For example, their local Chick-Fil-A donates gift cards to put in every backpack.
Shop the sales
Every year that Friendship has done this event, they have learned how to shop more efficiently. What is the most important rule? Buy in bulk. When you are in the store, ask to speak to the manager or assistant manager, and they will be able to tell you where large packs of items are kept. Small school supplies tend to be cheaper in stores. Backpacks are cheaper online.
Bailey also recommends starting the shopping process as early as possible. Since school supplies are seasonal, once they are gone, they do not get restocked. Therefore, to get large quantities at once, it is important to beat the rush.
Put fliers advertising the back-to-school event everywhere! Ask permission at your local grocery stores, fast-food restaurants and apartment complexes to hang up fliers on their community bulletin boards. Also, post on social media and have as many people as possible share the post. The most important part of the event is having people actually show up.
To successfully host your school supply drive, you will need lots of helping hands. People need to stuff the backpacks, set up for the event, pass out the bags, then clean up when it is all over.
Bailey has found that her best volunteers are the church’s youth group. Not only is it a great way to get teens involved in missions, passing out the backpacks to the families shows them how fortunate they are. Many teens need community service hours for schools and organizations, so make sure to emphasize the fact that they can receive credit.
While you are hanging fliers in local fast-food restaurants, take time to meet the employees. Many of the people in need of the backpacks are working at those restaurants, and they may not be able to take off work during the event. Bailey suggests making a list of those in need of backpacks at each restaurant, then setting the backpacks aside and delivering them to the employees at the restaurant.
Friendship Baptist Church has generously offered to answer any questions churches or individuals may have about hosting their own school supply drive. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.