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School Supply Charitable Giving

Jul 20, 2016
Leen Nsouli, Director, Industry Analyst ;
Office Supplies

Every year during the back-to-school season, the building where I live holds a school supply drive asking residents to donate supplies for school children and to help families in need. As school start dates inch closer, the stockpile of supplies in the building’s reception area grows larger as residents including myself add our purchased donations to the batch. Back-to-school season charitable donations come in many forms, and it’s a growing trend that’s making a big impact, not only for the shoppers and recipients, but at retail as well.  

Individuals and corporations alike want to contribute positively to the communities around them, and the numbers show this. In the U.S., consumers are giving more than they have in prior years. In 2014, Americans donated an estimated $358 billion to charity – the highest in 60 years*. In 2015, the number grew by another 4 percent**. Factors such as widespread access to the Internet and participation in social media are a few of the many factors that have contributed to the growth in charitable giving.

When it comes to school supplies, websites now exist that provide explicit directions on how to start and promote a school supply drive from scratch, and NPD has found that there is a need for such donations. On average, only 62 percent of parents are able to supply all the items on their child’s school list, and this number is even lower in urban school districts, according to NPD’s Today’s Teachers report***. Teachers are asking for more donations through added items on school supply lists and distributing wish lists, with 46 percent of teachers indicating that the school receives and distributes donated goods to the students. In cases where parents are provided the option to purchase school supply packs directly from the school, they are also given the option to purchase school supply packs for donation purposes, on top of the one they are buying for their child. In addition to local school supply drives, consumers are also donating online and internationally. Shoppers will buy notebooks, pens, and pencils in bulk, with the intention of providing these supplies to international children and families in need. In other cases, options exist online to donate a backpack full of supplies to a child.

During the back-to-school season, the average consumer makes two trips to the store. During these trips, when shoppers are purchasing supplies for the K – 12 student(s) within their household and self-gifting, they are also considering charitable school supply purchasing. Better understanding this thought-process and how it factors into the back-to-school shopping experience for the consumer is critical for retailers and manufacturers within the office supplies industry, and across all other back-to-school related categories.


*Giving USA
**National Philanthropic Trust, Charitable Giving Statistics
***Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Today’s Teachers: School Supply Purchasing Dynamics & Behaviors