2019

Two Years at VOA

Today’s my two year work anniversary at Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana!

Reflecting back, I’ve grown a lot in this role. I went from writing social media posts in Excel that needed to be approved each week to leading social media campaigns and projects in a paid software. I made the decision to start using Instagram as a brand and have grown our followers from a mere 30 people to over 700! My manager Stephanie left in the spring of 2018. She helped me grow so much in this role. She supported and encouraged me to try new things. I definitely miss her sometimes.

Our Development & Communications team has elevated the Volunteers of America brand throughout the community. Last year, a record number of backpacks were donated to Operation Backpack and we merged with our Indiana affiliate. I helped rebrand our social media accounts and merge our websites together.

I’ve loved managing our social media strategy, creating content and interacting with our enthusiastic audience. We have followers who are wildly passionate about Volunteers of America, our mission and our thrift stores. One of my favorite parts of my jobs is messaging people who love VOA and thrift shopping just as much as I do.

I’m thankful for my time at VOA and how much I’ve learned and grown.

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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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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

Thank You email for Faces of Hope fundraising breakfast

Below is an email that I wrote and designed for Volunteers of America. The email was sent to those who attended our Faces of Hope fundraising breakfast a few weeks ago. This is the second thank you email that they received. We emailed them a few hours after the event to say thanks for coming.  I wanted donors to have clear steps of ways they can give back if they felt inspired. I also wanted to use donor centric uplifting language. I tried to keep the tone casual and friendly. 

Results:
It was sent to 89 people and 28 of those people opened it (34% open rate) and 2 people clicked on the email. 

Thank you email to donors who attended our fundraising breakfast. 

From: Becky 
Sent: Friday, November 30, 2018 12:04 PM
To: Debbie Gillum Debbie.Gillum@voago.org
Subject: Let’s keep the momentum going!

Dear Debbie,

You can keep the momentum going from the Faces of Hope breakfast.

• Because of you, Mike, a U.S. Navy Veteran, found a home to call his own and a meaningful job helping others.
• Because of you, Mike exemplified the restoration of hope, in this world that we share.
• And, because of you, countless others have found a home, a support system, and hope for a brighter future.

“You gave me shelter when I needed it. You gave me tools to help me turn my life around. And here you are today, giving more blessings.” – Mike
MikeBell.jpg
You are the best ambassador for our organization. Remember, there’s three easy ways you can make an impact:

Share Mike’s story with others to inspire positive change in our community.
Sign up to be a 2019 Table Captain. Contact me for information and a tool kit.
Come take a tour or host a tour for your friends and colleagues. Contact me to schedule a date and time convenient for you.
By the way, don’t forget to keep using that beautiful blue Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana pen. But most of all, thank YOU for giving people in our community the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Debbie, because of your support our community is stronger. Thank you.

DONATE | GET INVOLVED

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© 2018 Volunteers of America – All Rights Reserved. 1776 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43203, 614-253-6100
We are designated tax-exempt under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

 

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September Thrift Email Newsletter

Below is the September Thrift Newsletter that we emailed out on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Formatting wise, I promise it looked better in email inboxes, than it does here.
I’m proud of the copy in the opening paragraphs and the blog posts. I wrote the first and third blog posts. I wrote the blog post about upcyling fall decorations last year and the blog post about the truths of a thrift store on Monday.

 

Debbie's Den

Hey Debbie,
It’s Debbie, your trusty guide for all things thrift!

It’s a bummer to see the summer months leave but at the same time, who doesn’t love the early signs of fall? Falling leaves, falling temperatures and the regular falling prices you’ll find only at one of our thrift stores. 

You’re sure to find autumnal fashions your whole family will love, like jeans, scarves, vests or sweaters. And because our prices are so low, you’re able to buy fall clothing and accessories with money left over. But more importantly, shopping at Volunteers of America helps uplift homeless veterans, families and individuals across Ohio.

Donate. Thrift. Give Hope. Repeat.  

Happy thrifting!

Fall decorations you can upcycle from the thrift store

As the leaves begin to change color here in Ohio, the holiday decorating season looms ahead. Thrift stores are full of so many things you can use to decorate with around the house. With a little upcycling you can give all your thrifted finds a new life. Learn how to spice up your pumpkin a latte so that you’ll wow all of the trick-or-treaters.

Fall Decorations You Can Upcycle from your local Columbus Th

Six tips to fall clean like a pro

When was the last time you cleaned out your closet? How about your whole home? As the seasons change, fall is the perfect time to finally tackle that overstuffed closet or clear out your cluttered garage. And with Christmas right around the corner, Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio thrift stores are in huge need of donations to fill their shelves.

Donate to Volunteers of America for a clean home and strong
 

The secret truth about thrift stores

It shouldn’t be a big secret how thrift stores operate, sort donations and how much they value the clothes and household items donated by community members like you. The proceeds of Volunteers of America thrift stores support life-saving programs for community members in need.

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Save 50% on everything next week!

On Tuesday, Sept. 25, everything inside all of our thrift stores will be half-off! This includes furniture, showcase items, new products and miscellaneous items. It’s all 50 percent off!

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September Donor Newsletter

I designed, wrote and sent this donor newsletter for September. We used to call it eSpirit but now it’s called Faces of Hope to match our annual fundraiser and because it really does showcase the faces of hope our donors are helping everyday.

I wanted this email to have a simple call to action of Watch Chaz’ video.  I used language from Tom Ahern and tried to shower the donor with love and keep the tone donor-centric.

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You are the reason Chaz is hopeful for his future

I’ve made more progress in the six months that I’ve been here than I have in the four years I’ve been out of the military. That’s astounding. It’s hard to believe the amount of progress that’s been made. -Chaz 

You are the reason Chaz has made so much progress.

Donors like you are with us every day as families, veterans, and individuals rebuild their lives. Thank you!

Your gift helped Chaz, a Navy veteran, in his journey to overcome substance abuse and manage his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Watch Chaz’s Story

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Operation Backpack Thank You Email

At work, I sent out this Thank You email today to everyone who participated in Operation Backpack this year and in previous years. I worked with Becky to revise the language and make sure the photo featured diverse kids. I’m proud of how donor-centric this email copy is. After I sent it out, Nicole replied to me saying “My favorite email!” which was a huge compliment. My mom texted me saying “Great Job” on this email and that some of the backpacks the kids are holding look like ones she and her company donated. That’s the reaction I wanted. Like hey, “That smiling kid is holding the unicorn backpack I donated. Wow, look how happy and confident he looks! I love Operation Backpack.”

You deserve an A+ for your generosity!
Image of the email

You can also click here to see the email online

 

From: Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio [mailto:operationbackpack@voago.org]
Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2018 9:48 AM
To:
Subject: You deserve an A+ for your generosity!

You deserve an A+ for your generosity.
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It’s a happy new school year for more children, because of you!

You’ve helped over 4,000 children across Ohio who are homeless or in-need start the new school empowered to succeed. Because of you, they’re heading back to school this year ready to learn.

The next time you see a child walking confidently to school, or a school bus of smiling faces driving by, know that you helped put smiles on some of those faces. You’ve given hope and confidence for a better tomorrow to children who need it the most. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Thank you for your support!
A special thank you to our wonderful sponsors.
You deserve an A+ for your help with Operation Backpack too!
Oswald and Buckeye Health Plan logos
http://www.OperationBackpackGO.org