Seton Youth Shelters’ Spring Cleaning Campaign

Written by: Karlaa Williams, Public Relations & Donor Associate, Seton Youth Shelters



Seton Youth Shelters has just finished celebrating 30 years of Changing Lives, Building Futures for more than 250,000 teens and their families, free of charge since 1985. With our three main program areas – shelters, mentoring children of prisoners program and street outreach programs – donations are always needed, from bathroom tissue, to non-perishable food items, to hygiene items and household cleaning products.

In this age of social media, online giving sites like GoFundMe, and others, pinpointing a specific audience can be a bit difficult.

Here at Seton Youth Shelters, we attempt to think outside the box and engage the community on a regular basis. Many of our donors are have families with small children and teens, just like many of the youth we serve. The Hampton Roads area is seven cities clustered on the southeastern coast of Virginia. Last year, in celebration of our 30th anniversary, we had a year-long calendar of events from open houses, to a bench dedication in honor of a longtime supporter, to our Spring Cleaning Campaign. We even opened a “Seton Shop” featuring Seton-branded mugs, shirts, caps for those dedicated supporters.

Our favorite and most successful campaign is the Spring Cleaning Campaign. Seton Youth Shelters is the official designee for Thrift Store USA, ranked as one of the nation’s top thrift stores by Lucky Magazine.  A Norfolk stop for all thing vintages, chic and….of course thrifty. This 26,000 sq. feet store has furniture, mattresses, shoes, jewelry and clothes. Many thrift stores are known buy their items from warehouses because of a lack of donations. Not so with Thrift Store USA! They have placed more than 100 donation bins around Hampton Roads. It’s in these distinctive, bright blue bins sporting the Seton Youth Shelters’ logo, on which our donors to place many items to be sold. The Spring Cleaning Campaign directed donors to the bins!

When designing our campaign, we thought of this:

You and your family are cleaning up all the old clothes from last year that you didn’t wear and placing them in these large plastic bags. The house is clean! But where do you put all of these bags?

That is the scenario that I believed many area families and donors were going through. Thrift Store USA’s truck will pick up bulk donations free of charge, from your home. Don’t have that many items? There are plenty of Thrift Store USA bins, you can surely do a quick drop off. Voila! Donations gone…and you have done a great deed!

Interested in campaign ideas? Here are some tips!

  • Identify your audience
    • Families
    • Small children
    • Teens
    • Churches etc.
  • If you have a bulk list of donation needs, condense it down for social media. Ask for one to two things.
  • Ask donors to sponsor a single item that you really need. Maybe they don’t have the time to go and buy it for you, but are willing to give you $50 to buy it yourself or towards to total purchase price.
  • Get creative! Think seasons or the nearest holiday and how to integrate that into your needs! Need more sunscreen for outings? Seedlings or flowers as a gardening activity? Holiday tree decorating?
  • Use social media to get the word out. Create custom hashtags that specify your campaign.
  • Encourage your followers to share! Sharing your posts increases the views, and helps you spread the word.
  • Spend some money! Boosting social media posts for $10 can be very beneficial, especially when spending that $10 gets you over $100 in donations.
  • Always say “Thank You”. Whether it’s a photo posted on your social media pages, a handwritten thank you, a phone call, or a “shout out” at your next fundraising event. Just say it!

The Sustainability Puzzle

By: Shauna Stubbs, RHYTTAC Principal Investigator for National Safe Place Network 

Sustainability is more than fund development and capacity building.  It is not only easy to over-simplify the idea but to completely mis-characterize it.  We think about how our agency or program can win funding from competitors.  But in truth, sustainability is collective, cooperative, and collaborative.  Here are a few pieces of the puzzle to help you consider applying a philosophy of sustainability in your organization.

Know what your community needs.  Regularly mapping assets, assessing needs, and identifying gaps in resources or services for the population(s) with whom you work enables organizations to avoid duplication and focus effort where it is most needed.  Keep in mind that community boundaries aren’t necessarily geographic.

Know who you are.  Develop a clear mission and use it to drive decisions.  Recognize your strengths and leverage those in organizational and program development.  Avoid the temptation to reconfigure for funding opportunities (or even private donations) that aren’t an authentic fit.

Know who you need.  This applies both internally and externally.  Board and leadership development require attention to diversity.  Both should reflect the populations you serve and bring the full complement of skills and assets necessary for your organization to thrive!  From an external perspective, sometimes the most sustainable strategy to achieve an objective is to build relationships with partners who can contribute their strengths and resources to your success.

Value people.  Listen for the voices of clients, volunteers, and direct care staff.  These are the people who really know what is going on, and they are so often ignored or unappreciated.  Recognize how important the people who earn the least in your organization truly are, invest in their professional development, and engage them in decisions.  Then sit back and watch what happens!     

Be Excellent.  Start from the most evidence-informed position possible, develop programs based on logic models, monitor performance and evaluate outcomes.  Continuously improve the work you do.  Build depth before breadth.  As a reminder, none of these grand ideas will produce excellence without the engagement of the aforementioned people.

Pay it forward.  Agencies and programs that are culturally invested in professional advancement and Positive Youth Development have a natural advantage when it comes to succession planning.  Draw a pathway from receiving services to volunteering to providing services to leadership, and make it part of your organizational identity.

Share what you learn.  Evidence-based practice involves exploring what has and has not worked for others, critically considering what is likely to work for the people you serve, and evaluating outcomes that follow the practices you employ.  It also involves supporting the knowledge base available for other practitioners to explore.  What you learn can be helpful to others.

It’s all about the mission.  There is no place for ego.  People who work in organizations who serve people and communities are ultimately aiming to work themselves out of a job – to eliminate the need for their services by solving the social problem at the root of the need.  For example, the Forty to None Project’s mission is “…to raise awareness about and bring an end to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth experiencing homelessness.” Learn more at:

Follow these links to sustainability resources available from National Safe Place Network:

Follow the links below for additional resources about sustainability:

Each of the following links provide information about potential funding sources: