The Donation Station - Advanced


engagement and market presence

The most difficult aspect of operating a Donation Station is communicating the mission of the program to shoppers. The knowledge of hunger and local food systems that shoppers have are going to vary widely - along with their purpose and available time at market that day. 

Everyone Donation Station volunteer should try to build a relationship with the market management. 

Everyone Donation Station volunteer should try to build a relationship with the market management. 

  • Collaborate with the market management to make the Donation Station a more involved part of market operation
    • Do the general market volunteers know about the station and it's purpose?
    • Does the market welcome booth have flyers and information about Farmer Foodshare? 
  • Kids activities!
    • Stickers, pipe cleaners, coloring, sidewalk chalk, and other easy, low-cost activities can entertain the kids at your market and encourage their guardians to engage with volunteers about the station's mission. 
  • Collaboration with farmers
    • Do the farmers at your market have 'Buy One Give One' signs? 

Buying strategies

New volunteers are typically given loose instruction on the types of produce they buy at market - anything goes as long as its a fresh fruit or vegetable and is reasonably priced - but to get the best performance out of your station you should be considering the items you purchase more carefully. 

Buying produce in bulk is a great way to support farmers with overstock, and get more pounds for your station.

Buying produce in bulk is a great way to support farmers with overstock, and get more pounds for your station.

  • What can the recipient make use of and what do they want? 
    • Each of Farmer Foodshare's Donation Stations is paired with a unique recipient organization, and the capacity of these organizations to transport, store, prepare, and distribute produce will vary. 
    • Make it a habit to ask the recipients of produce that day what they have thought of previous donations, and what they would like to see more of. 
  • What is a farmer trying to sell that day? 
    • Items like peaches typically have narrow windows when they are sold, and tend to sell out completely by the end of each market day. Buying this type of item is not ideal because the farm would not be getting income it wouldn't have earned otherwise from a regular shopper. 
    • Look for items that are less likely to be sold out, or that the farmer wouldn't be able to preserve until the following market if it was not sold. This is not to say that you shouldn't buy items like potatoes and squash that have a long shelf life - these are still excellent purchases that provide easy and nutritious calories. 

lead volunteering

As a lead volunteer you are expected to take on responsibilities beyond basic Donation Station functions. 

Keep materials clean, current, and organized. 

Keep materials clean, current, and organized. 

  • Clearly define the positions/roles needed by the other volunteers that day. 
    • Buyer, table manager, shopper pitcher, and other specific roles help keep volunteers focused while at market. It is also typical for your volunteers to rotate through these roles if they are on longer shifts. 
    • Challenge your volunteers to think about innovative ways to improve materials or better communicate with shoppers. 
  • Check-in with the market manager about how the Donation Station is doing along with events happening that day or other relevant market news. 
  • Organize, clean, and refresh market materials. 
  • Along with completing the activity form in paper and online, try to summarize any reasons that market did or didn't go well that day in the 'notes' section of the online activity form. This information is valuable for your only reflection between markets, and also for our internal program evaluations. 
  • Take pictures! Is there an event at your market that day, a new farmer, an unusually large donation? Send any and all pictures along with a caption for us to use on social media and other materials. 

improving your station

The Donation Station model and the associated materials are not necessarily meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution to every location. Farmer's markets vary widely by size, vendors, shopper demographics, and activity types. 

  • Do the materials you are using make sense in the context of your market? 

The Station materials and strategies are also not meant to be static - the same approach used week after week at market is likely to lead to flat or declining results.

  • Make note of any special engagement or communication each market and compare performance with previous weeks. 
  • Consider why a particular strategy might be working more effectively than another.