Setting Up a Charity Clothing Giveaway

Charity Clothing Giveaways are more important than ever during this down economy. Here is a brief summary of how to get started with your giveaway event.

Some local churches and charities give away toys at the start of the school year, Christmas and emergency supplies when needed, but how many are equipped to supply the masses with clothing and school supplies year round? 

Step one:  Location

A clothing distribution center needs to have a significant enclosed area for the distribution event.  Such as a church or school gym.  This location will be used only for the giveaway event.

Step two:  Storage

Storage and a sorting area are crucial to keeping your inventory under control and easy to access.  Some storage facilities are open to discounts or may offer a free storage area to charities.  To carry enough inventory for a large scale clothing giveaway, you would need one to two small storage units or a space similar to a 2 car garage.

Step Three:  Workers

It is necessary to have at least 20 volunteer workers on this type of project.  Two groups of 5-6 people to do weekly sorting/ organizing and 10-15 people for set up, take down and working the event.

Step Four:  Stock

Churches, sororities, and charities such as a local children’s home usually have access to or extra new or gently used clothing.  Clothing drives are useful but have limited resources.  Craigslist is an excellent resource for garage sales.  Most people who post on Craigslist have contact email addresses for questions regarding their garage sale postings.  One simple email explaining that you are running a charity clothing giveaway and that you would be willing to come by and pick up any specific items such as clothing, toys, stuffed animals, etc. after their garage sale is over. Give them your organizations name, address and phone number so they can verify your information. Most people are delighted to get rid of anything that didn’t sell especially if it’s going to a good cause that is willing to pick it up and haul it off for free. Of course, you will need a few volunteers to help collect these items. 

Step Five:  Advertising

There are many online sources to advertise your free clothing giveaway.  The local news channels, flyers, unemployment office, grocery stores, and Craigslist, for example. Check for any area online garage sale postings and small local newspapers sometimes have a Website for free postings. Also, a local military base, laundromats, and local shelters have bulletin boards for postings.

Set up

Organize the stock by separating it into sections.  Have a children's section, a women's section that includes a section for maternity, men's section, shoe section and a section for adult coats and jackets. Organize your giveaway by sizes:  0-6 mth, 6-12 mth, 12-18 mth, 24mth-2 yrs, 3T-4T, 5T-6X, 7-10 and 10 and up for children. Adult sizes do not need to be organized by size unless you have the time and resources to do so.  Set up is usually done the night before the event and will take anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on your stock and number of helpers.  Clothing should be folded on tables, and any soiled or damaged items should be thrown away. Make sure each table is labeled in large letters and that there is plenty of space between rows for easy access. Put everything out, don’t hold anything back to restock, you won’t have time.

The Event

A good event day is Saturday. Recommended hours of operation are 9a-12n, more extended hours are not necessary. Clearly, designate one entrance and one exit. Post the hours of the giveaway on the exterior doors before the event start time. Make sure you restrict access to the rest of the building during the giveaway to avoid wandering guests and for security purposes.

Designate 2 greeters to stand outside with the shoppers to help maintain order and discourage problems. Designate 2 additional greeters just inside the facility doors equipped with clear trash bags to hand out to the shoppers for use collecting items. It is best to limit each shopper to one bag of clothing. There should be at least 4-6 volunteers out on the floor to assist the shoppers and to maintain a calm, cheerful atmosphere. If using a church gym, all equipment should be removed or placed in secure storage containers. Shoppers can become confused and/or aggressive to the point of helping themselves to anything not nailed down, so it's best to avoid any confusion by removing those items from temptation.

Exit area

Our church has a ministry area with a few tables and chairs that the shopper's exit through. The shoppers are offered a chance to talk to a counselor or pray with a volunteer. They are asked to fill out a short form with their name, address, phone number and prayer requests, but nothing is forced. If they decline, no one is pressured.

It’s a good idea to have resources available for the shoppers who are in crisis. For example: Crisis nursery, battered women’s shelters, homeless shelters and food pantry addresses and phone numbers.

Step Seven:  Clean up

Approximately 10-15  people will be needed for cleanup.  Clothing should be refolded and placed back into storage containers for re-storage or dropped off at a local shelter.

This type of giveaway is best done on an every other month basis, however, if that is too frequent for your group to accomplish doing a quarterly giveaway is also effective.  If done correctly you can have an attendance of over 800 people coming from surrounding communities to your event.  Expect to start small with approximately 50-100 people for your first two events and if done properly word will travel, and attendance will double each time you have a giveaway.  Good luck!


Kimbra Townsend