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Blog Post I wrote for Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana

For Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, I wrote a blog post essentially about how to be the best at donating to a thrift store. I was inspired by my own personal experience of donating to a thrift store. When I would gather up the clothes in my closet to donate, I wondered things like “Should I wash them first?” “Should I tie shoelaces of shoes together so they stay together?” “Should I keep jewelry untangled?”  I wanted to answer these questions for our donors and I knew that answering these questions would help our SEO too. With people asking more and more long-form questions in search, your content needs to answer what people are asking.

I had learned a lot of these answers from responding to questions on social media and by speaking with our thrift store managers. I double-checked these tips with the managers to make sure I wasn’t giving false or misleading information.

 

11 Tips to Maximize Your Thrift Store Donation

11 Tips to Maximize Your Thrift Store Donation
I made the graphic in Canva

Is your New Year’s Resolution to get your life organized? Perhaps you’re tidying up your home, inspired by Marie Kondo and her life-changing KonMari method. When you get organized and declutter your home that creates piles of unwanted stuff that needs to be donated to the thrift store.

With every donation that you make to Volunteers of America thrift stores, you are giving hope to families, veterans and individuals in need. Your stuff is sold in our thrift stores and the revenue is used to fund our community programs across Ohio and Indiana. Thank you for donating your items to Volunteers of America, a 100% non-profit thrift store.

CHECK OUT THESE TIPS TO MAKE YOUR NEXT THRIFT STORE DONATION QUICK AND EASY:

Capri donating her stuff to Volunteers of America

Wash clothes before donating

Toss them in the laundry one last time before donating them. This will ensure the clothes are clean, fresh smelling and ready to be sold in our thrift store.

Check your pockets

Double-check that you’ve removed any coins, business cards, receipts, keys, notes or important items from your clothing. Once donations start going through our sorting process, it becomes hard to track them down again. So, as much as we would love to find a $20 cash donation in one of your pants pockets, make sure you check your pockets.

Tie your shoes together

Keep shoes as a pair by tying shoelaces together or putting a rubber band around the shoes. We need both shoes in order to sell them in our thrift store. Have you ever seen just one shoe for sale in any of our thrift stores? Now, that would just be sad.

Tape the controller to your device

If you’re donating a TV with a remote, be sure to tape the remote to the TV so it stays together. The same goes for video game systems or other electronics. Keep all pieces together. Pay it forward to the shopper who will buy your TV and give them the remote.

Keep like items together

If you’re donating a set of dishes or like items, pack them in the same bag or box so they arrive at our donation center together. Y’know what they say, dishes of a feather, flock together.

Sort your donations into two categories

You can help us out by sorting your donations into two easy categories: Clothing and Household Items. Place all your jeans, shirts, socks, dresses, linens, and anything that has fabric into one bag. In the other bag, place the kitchen, household and miscellaneous items. Bonus points for labeling your boxes or bags! This will help us when we sort your donations.

Keep jewelry untangled in small bags

Place jewelry like necklaces and bracelets in individual bags so they don’t get tangled up together. Nothing is worse than a big ball of tangled up jewelry, right?

Label your fragile donations

Mark on the box if items inside are fragile. We don’t want any of your stuff to be broken!

Double-check your donations before you drop off

Before you load up your car or contact us to schedule a free home pickup, check our list of items that we do pickup and our list of items that we do not accept.

Note that we’re not able to accept donations of certain items like mattresses, pianos, beds, chemicals, or large appliances.

We also can’t accept broken, hazardous, toxic or recalled items for safety reasons. Examples of these items include old paint, cribs, car seats, or fire extinguishers.

When we receive donations of items that we don’t accept, we have to spend money properly disposing of those items. This means, less money to help veterans in our community.

If you’d like to donate something that we do not accept, you can reach out to another non-profit thrift store or your local trash company, and they might be able to take it away. Often you can contact their customer service center to schedule bulk item pickups. In Columbus, Ohio you can contact the City of Columbus Customer Service Center by calling 311 or 645-3111, or online at www.311.columbus.gov

Marie Kondo and her life-changing KonMari method of tidying
One of my favorite Instagram posts from @voathrift

Schedule a hassle-free pick up

Scheduling a home pickup is the best way to avoid driving around for weeks with your old stuff in trash bags in your trunk. We’ll pick up your donations, no problem. Schedule your free pick-up by calling us at 1-800-873-4505 or emailing us at askthrift@voago.org.

Be sure to leave your items out in a spot that’s visible to our truck drivers. You can leave your stuff on the curb, on your porch or any spot that a driver would easily be able to see.

We can pick up anything on our list of accepted items that one man can lift.

Get a tax-deductible donation receipt

When you drop off your donations at one of our thrift store locations, be sure to ask an employee for a donation receipt. This will come in handy if you choose to itemize your taxes and would like to deduct your donations.

Tip: Take a picture of your items before you donate them. Show your tax professional the picture for help in determining the value of your items.

The value of your donations depends on the specific items and their condition. Be sure to use the current fair market value to determine their value. The IRS has a handy guidebook to help you determine the value of your donated stuff.

If you forget to grab a receipt, that’s not a problem. We are happy to send you one. Give us a call at 1-800-873-4505 or email askthrift@voago.org

When you donate your stuff to a non-profit organization like Volunteers of America, you can easily help your community thrive. So clear out your closet, find a Volunteers of America thrift store near you, and do your part to make your community a brighter place.

SCHEDULE YOUR FREE DONATION PICK UP TODAY

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LinkedIn Paid Advertising

After merging with Indiana, Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana has been growing at a rapid pace and we have a lot of job openings right now. To assist HR with finding qualified applicants for these positions, I ran a paid campaign on LinkedIn from 12/27 to 1/2/2019, targeting people in Evansville, Toledo, Fort Wayne, Bloomington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Columbus with the listed job function of Community and Social Services. (These are the cities we are hiring in.)

For the Text Ads, since you could have multiple variations, I used this as an opportunity to do some A/B testing with the language, the links and the creative.

Three of the Text Ads took people to: https://www.voaohin.org/careers  and three of the ads took people directly to the job listing page. I used a Bitly link to shorten the job listings page.  The top two performing ads pointed visitors to https://www.voaohin.org/careers  

Sponsored Content on LinkedIn. I made the image and wrote the copy.

We ran 5 versions of Text ads on LinkedIn and it’s clear the one with “We’re Hiring” in the headline performed best.

The Text Ad variations. The top performing ad had over 20,000 impressions and 14 clicks.

I definitely want to do more paid advertising on LinkedIn to recruit applicants and to do more A/B Testing.

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January 2019 Donor Email Newsletter

I wrote and designed this donor email newsletter for January 2019. I was inspired by an email I got from the epic Lori Jacobwith. It caught my attention because she used my name in the subject line and addressed me like an old friend “Hi Debbie.” I honestly did a double take when I read this email, like does she know me? I think the lack of images and simplicity of the email stood out. Inside the email, it read like we were best friends and she was speaking directly to me.

The email that inspired me

My first draft of the donor email was more text-heavy and included a call-to-action for donors to become monthly donors.

First draft of the email.

I shared the email draft with my team and our Director of Development noted that we should just say thank you and not ask for money in this email. We did include a subtle “PS” asking readers to watch our Faces of Hope video.

After changing the email, when it was sent out, several Volunteers of America staff members responded saying how much they appreciated this email and how it made their day.

A great way to kick off the year, by taking time to appreciate.  Thanks & will share the inspiration with my crew!

Grove City thrift store manager
 
Subject line: Name – Thank you!
Hi Name,
At the end of the year, do you ever take a moment to reflect back on the year? Do you ask yourself if you made a positive difference in your community? 
Let me assure you that, yes, you made a difference in 2018. Your support of Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana has led to so many amazing things.

Mothers found sobriety.
Families achieved well-being. 
Homeless veterans established housing. 
People were given second chances.
And they all thrive … because of you.  

Every day, I’m humbled to be surrounded by your kindness. On behalf of Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, I sincerely thank you for allowing us to be an extension of your heart and hands, helping people reach their full potential and for helping our community thrive. Many wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.  

John R. von Arx III
President & CEO 
Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana

PS – Watch a snapshot of how you’ve changed lives in 2018.

Screenshot of the email, sent Monday, January 7, 2019 at 7 a.m.
2018, work, work sample

Giving Tuesday

Happy Giving Tuesday!   aka That-Day-Every-Nonprofit-Asks-or-Begs-For-Money

TL;DR: I was disappointed that we didn’t see more engagement on Giving Tuesday but now we have a new opportunity to do better with our upcoming End of Year giving campaign. 

I admit Giving Tuesday was a bit anti-climatic, what with all the hype starting, back in the summer. I subscribe to a lot of non profit marketing newsletters and I can’t count the number of emails and webinars claiming to spell out the perfect Giving Tuesday strategy. It’s like Black Friday for retailers.   (Side note to retailers: Cyber Tuesday is not a thing. Let us have this one day.) 
For this year, I admit we didn’t spend as much time as we could’ve strategizing about how to differentiate ourselves among the #GivingTuesday herd. We used a lot of the images that National (voa.org or Volunteers of America, versus the affiliate Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana that I work at) provided to us. I made a couple of unique images for us in Canva.  I didn’t use the copy from National exactly because I felt it wasn’t uplifting, donor centric or on-brand for us. I wrote my own variations. 
I spent like half of Monday last week sitting down, and scheduling out in AgoraPulse all our Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday social media posts. We’ve got two Twitters, two Instagrams, a Facebook page plus 9 thrift store Facebook pages- oh, and LinkedIn, so it’s a lot.  By the end, I was really proud of myself. I had laid out and scheduled in advance these important posts across all our channels. And, I did some boosting of posts and events on Instagram and Facebook as well as ran some Facebook Ads. We spent about $100. 
In my head, since I put so much time and effort into these posts and thought I did a great job, I naively expected to be overwhelmed with Likes, Comments, Shares and Messages saying “Wow this social media post changed my life!” (Just kidding on that last one. I’m not quite that delusional.)
Alas, it was pretty much crickets.  One woman did comment how she didn’t want to donate on Facebook and that she would donate “thru her nank.” I think she meant to say bank. Yeah, not the engagement I was hoping for.  

I told my boyfriend Nate about this on the phone today and saying it all out loud helped me realize that I can’t get bent out of shape over people not engaging or responding to my posts. That’s social media, ya’ll. That’s life. 
Keep in mind, these were mostly posts about giving, donating, fundraising. These were not the most hilarious, shareable, viral posts. 
Thinking more about it, we don’t typically do these hard-asks of “Donate Now!”  of our audience. I try to share meaningful and positive posts, celebrating our amazing supporters. I try to do the Jab, Jab, Punch method of sprinkling, or jabbing, helpful content and then here in November and December we do more punching with the Give Back posts. 

When one campaign ends, another begins. Giving Tuesday is out and now End of Year giving is in.  Okay, in an ideal world of butterflies and rainbows, I’d already have this campaign all figured out, but we merged our affiliate with Indiana this summer, I got a new boss, our team has grown and things have been hectic across the organization. All I can do is focus on the now. Today, I used a Creative Brief template that my old boss, Stephanie, came up with and that we used before. It’s helpful for me to use to spell out the

  • Goal
  • Objective
  • Tone
  • Creative
  • Deliverables
  • Look & Feel
  • Assets

 of the campaign.  I like to say that it helps me get my ducks in a row (this is my new favorite phrase. I just like picturing a bunch of scattered ducks and me herding them into a single file line.) 

On our nine thrift store Facebook pages, I shared this post to let folks know about Giving Tuesday and to ask them to donate online or on Facebook. 
2017, debbie, images, may, social media, work sample

Hidden Creek social media posts

These are some potential social media posts I created for Hidden Creek Landscaping. 
My Advice: 
-Be Humorous 
Don’t shy away from puns and plant-humor 
– Add a Call-to-Action to the employee recognition posts
“Comment below if you’ve had the pleasure of working with any of these great employees” 
Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 5.25.03 PM.png
Finally we are almost done with worrying about frost. The crocuses are popping up. Can’t wait to welcome spring! #firstdayofspring #march20
Important Question We Need to Ask: If a plant is sad, do other plants photosympathize with it? #planthumor #lol
Plants grow from a combination of water, sunlight and food. Hidden Creek Landscaping grows from reading your feedback. Please take a moment to review us today! http://ow.ly/5BeU306hEbe
When you do good work, you’re proud of it. Using our landscape expertise, we  crafted a personalized and pristine space for The Palmer House, right over in New Albany. See what we can do for you today! http://ow.ly/7V9E307PsYH 
Want to join our great team? We currently have openings for our landscape installation and landscape management divisions. #joinourteam #jobopening To see job openings visit: http://ow.ly/5riM307Pwei 
Want to beautify your property without breaking open the piggy bank? Hidden Creek Landscape is the solution. Our residential landscaping services will make your neighbors green with envy
All content created by and property of Debbie Gillum. All rights reserved
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Good Makery Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

February 10, 2017

There’s a special someone in your life and you want to get them something spectacular for Valentine’s Day. But, what do you get them? Take a deep breath, eat some chocolate and let this list of gift ideas come to your rescue:
  • Watch: Give your special someone a gift they will treasure all year long. Every time they check the time, they’ll think of you. 
  • Custom stamp: How cool would it be to have your own personalized stamp? You can write both your names or signatures on the stamp to always remember your love. A great way to liven up thank-you notes. 
  • Necklace: What better way to keep your Valentine close to your heart, than engraving their name on a special necklace, made just for them. It’s as beautiful as your love. 
  • Coasters: If your bae is slowly ruining your wooden table, subtly remind them to use a coaster, with these customizable coasters, available in ceramic tiles or in cork. 
  • Homemade cookies: Any Valentine will sincerely appreciate the time and effort spent crafting some delicious goodies. 
  • Magnet: A simple yet useful gift to hold important photos, shopping lists or notes on the fridge.
  • Candle: Nothing burns brighter than your love… except for this candle. Our scented soy candles last over 90 hours and include a heartfelt message and personalized gift inside a glass bottle.
  • Phone case: A practical yet lovely gift for that will keep you two in-sync. 
  • Cactus: This little green succulent will grow with some TLC and is long-lasting, just like your love. They will treasure this prickly plant forever. 
If all else fails, you can’t go wrong with a sincerely written card, flowers and box of chocolates.

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Good Makery Instagram posts

I made this Valentine’s Day graphic in Canva and I like how clean and simple it is. I also wrote the caption on Instagram.
I watched Adele sweep the Grammy’s on Sunday and so I wanted to celebrate her achievement on Instagram and provide relatable down-to-earth content for our Instagram followers. This is Adele’s Twitter profile picture and I wrote the caption.