Blessing Baskets: Help Your Town Help Others in a Big (and Simple!) Way

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If you’re looking to impact the community in a positive way and simultaneously bring people together to help those who need it, Ellie McIntire of the EPIK Home Group has the event for you. While she doesn’t take credit for creating the Blessing Basket idea herself, she has taken the idea and upped the ante, making the charity event her own in her hometown of Catonsville, Maryland.
Blessing Baskets are laundry baskets filled by members of the community with everything a struggling family could want to celebrate Thanksgiving. With shopping lists that include gift cards for the turkey and ham, all the fixings for the must-have side dishes from green beans and cream of mushroom soup to biscuit mixes, non-perishable desserts, and even instructions for extras like laundry detergent, socks, or games, Ellie has every detail of the event planned from start to finish to ensure success. And she starts preparing for the event early because she knows that prior planning prevents poor performance.
This season, we want you to join in on the Blessing Basket fun. We’re taking Ellie’s Blessing Basket event and setting a goal to collect 20,000 baskets across our entire Pivot: Shift Ahead community. Just think of the impact we can have as a group if we all commit to helping connect those that are in need of help with in our community with those who are able to assist. And we’re giving you a step-by-step account of how Ellie creates a successful event so that you can run one as well in your own community.
Read on below for the basics and then download the Blessing Baskets playbook for more detailed instructions at the bottom of this page.
Step 1: Figure out who you will partner with in order to get the baskets to those who need them most.
The first thing you want to do is determine who you want to be recipients of the Blessing Baskets in your community. There are a number of ways to ensure that those families with the most needs get the baskets, whether through the local schools, religious organizations, or other groups that have access to helping the less fortunate. Ellie has had great results by partnering with the school counselors in multiple schools in her area. These counselors have a keen understanding of who in the community could benefit most from receiving a Blessing Basket and have ways to get the baskets into these people’s hands.
One piece of advice to note: Ellie suggests that this particular event doesn’t pair as well with food banks as they typically have to disassemble the baskets, which takes some of the joy and impact away from being able to gift a family a full basket of goods.
Step 2: Plan for how to host the day-of event
The day-of event is when all of the people who have volunteered to create a Blessing Basket drop it off. How big or small you make the day-of event is up to you. For Ellie, this is a celebratory event. She partners with a local restaurant who provides a tent for the baskets and event. She plans the event on a non-busy day so that the restaurant is willing to offer space for free. In return, she encourages participants to stay for dinner at the restaurant, where they’ve been awarded discounts in return for their donation.
There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind when planning a drop-off location. For example, the baskets are heavy. It’s important to ensure that people have to go to too much trouble to drop them off. (In other words, walking up flights of stairs with a big Blessing Basket is not ideal.) Also, remember, the actual day-of event takes place in November so consider the typical weather in your area when you plan your drop-off location. It may be rainy or cold!
Step 3: Pick a weekday for the drop-off event
One thing that is important not to overlook is making sure that whoever you partner with has enough time to get the Blessing Baskets to the families in need. Ellie recommends hosting the basket drop-off event on the Wednesday or Thursday before Thanksgiving. This is a full week before the craziness of the holiday sets in and allows them time to get the baskets where they need to go. It’s also essential to look at the calendar to make sure you aren’t competing with a big sporting event or other community event that will take participation away from the Blessing Basket event.
Step 4: Have a plan to get the baskets where they need to be
Invite the people or group that will be distributing the baskets to the families to attend the event. Not only will they get joy from seeing how the community is pitching in to help the families, but it gets the baskets into the right hands immediately and takes the pressure off of you. Ellie, for instance, invites each of the school counselors to attend and each school counselor takes the specific number of baskets they need with them at the conclusion of the event.
Step 5: Create a Blessing Baskets sign-up
In the 30-45 days prior to the event, Ellie recommends creating a sign-up for participation. This is beneficial for a couple of key reasons. First, it creates buy-in. When someone signs up to donate a basket, they’ve committed to the charity. It ensures they won’t back out. Second, it allows you to collect their contact information. This is useful in event planning, event follow-up, and of course, for your database. And third, it helps you to get an idea of how many baskets to expect. You can use this information to divvy up the baskets among the partners, like the school counselors, who can distribute them.
Step 6: Let the community know about it
Blessing Baskets and the accompanying event are a great opportunity to showcase yourself helping out your community. So you’ll want to share information about it everywhere. As Ellie says, it’s possible to create hundreds of touches to your database, the community, and beyond around this charity event. 45-days prior, Ellie starts to market it. For example, she talks about it on the community Facebook page she hosts, creates a Facebook event, sends postcards to her farm, includes details about it in her team’s email signatures, and mentions it in newsletters. She also talks to the community at large to let as many people know about it as possible. Because she partners with the local schools, they also send information out about the charity event to the schools’ families to encourage participation.
30-days out she continues blasting information about the event everywhere, including additional details about the event such as any other charity aspects they’ve added (such as a coat or book drive) and fun activities (such as a visit from Santa). Remember, these additional features aren’t necessary to have a great event. Recognize that you are helping families in your community no matter how small an event you choose to do.
Step 7: Day-of Excitement
When the day-of arrives- it’s time for everything you’ve planned to come to fruition. And have fun doing it! Invite people, share with the local media, and turn it into a celebration. After all, your work within the community for this Blessing Baskets event will have a huge impact on the community and people love to see how generous their neighbors are. Make sure you document the event to showcase live and after-the-fact. As Ellie shared, her only expenses are a photographer and videographer. She uses them to share with the community all of the good that’s being done.
Remember, you don’t have to overthink this event. The purpose of it is to have a positive impact on the community. It doesn’t matter if you collect 10 baskets or if you collect 100 baskets. Every basket collected helps a family in need in your community. That’s something to be proud of initiating where you live. Download the playbook and get started now!
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