Raising Awareness

One of our stated goals at the National Diaper Bank Network is to raise awareness of diaper need.  By “raising awareness,” we mean spreading the word that there are people in the United States who struggle to provide clean, dry diapers for their children, and that there are organizations like diaper banks that can help these people obtain the diapers they need.  This process of telling people that other people need and cannot afford diapers is so much a part of organizing and running a diaper drive or a diaper bank that even directors of diaper banks sometimes are unconscious of how often they “raise awareness” as they work to raise diapers and funds and connect people with diapers. And because the need is so apparent to those of us who deal with the issue everyday, we almost forget that not everyone thinks about how necessary diapers are to a family with very young children.   But diaper need is often not immediately self-evident to those who no longer rely on diapers (for themselves or their family members). They need to be reminded that children without clean diapers suffer from diaper rash and other health problems, and that a baby crying because of a wet diaper that cannot be changed because there are no more diapers adds to the stressors on parents struggling to make ends meet.  We think that the more directions from which the message is sent, the more likely it is to take root.

For that reason, we are thrilled whenever we see someone commenting on the need for diapers and letting others know there is such a need.  In his blog documenting an experiment to conduct 366 Random Acts of Kindness this year, Ryan describes giving diapers to the Bundle of Joy Diaper Bank in Chicago after researching what to do with his baby’s unused diapers.  We also recently learned of Pastor Eric’s planned Ride across America for Diapers, in which he will ride from Washington State to Washington, DC, spreading word about the desperate need for diapers in many communities in this country.  The more messengers carrying the message, the farther it will travel.

As we raise awareness of the need, it is also important to remind people that there are many dedicated individuals and organizations working to address the need in their communities and across the country, otherwise the problem can seem  insurmountable.  Many diaper banks were formed in isolation, and we have only just begun to build this network of diaper banks, so many people who may be aware of diaper need may not be aware of the actions that they can take in their communities to help.  But we anticipate that as word spreads about NDBN and the network of diaper banks located in communities throughout the country that people will be encouraged to seek out their local diaper bank to make a contribution to help or, for those located in areas where there is no diaper bank, start a diaper bank of their own.

Tell everyone that there is a need for diapers and why, and how they can help.  Embrace your local media, and seek opportunities to talk about the need in your communities.  And when you meet someone spreading the word–whether on a bicycle or on a blog–embrace them as a fellow convert, and let them know what you are doing to help.  Also, let people know we’re here to help, whether to frame the issue of diaper need, draft press releases,  share collective knowledge, or help fledgling diaper banks get off the ground and existing diaper banks expand to address their community’s need.

Communication and Community

Communication is a critical aspect of any new social enterprise.  And communication, to be effective, has to be a two way street. We’ve reached out to you and you’ve reached out to us–we’re continually amazed at the number of committed, caring people we’ve met volunteering to step up and create diaper pantries and diaper banks to help people in their communities.  We hope that anyone interested in learning more about diaper need feels free to call or email or post to our Facebook account (comments here are good too) with any questions they might have.  We are here to help.

But we also want to make sure that you are talking among yourselves and sharing all the creative ideas you have.  One of our missions at NDBN is to create a community of diaper banks that will interact with other diaper banks, helping to foster and encourage new banks and to share best practices so  we can all share our  lessons learned. On Wednesday, we launched a Google group for diaper bank leaders to talk among themselves and share their best practices directly.  The group has been busy all day as diaper bank leaders swap ideas to maximize the effectiveness of diaper drives and stretch limited funds buy the most diapers.  It is great to see the network really forming among and between diaper banks–so many committed people tackling diaper need in so many creative ways.  If you’d like to join the conversation, send us an email at info@diaperbanknetwork.org.

But in addition to learning from each other, sometimes it’s good to learn from an expert.  Our next webinar, Grant Writing for Diaper Banks, will feature Jennifer Heath,the Executive Vice President of the United Way of Greater New Haven, who will provide her expertise on what makes a successful grant proposal.  Make plans to join us on Wednesday, April 11, at 3:00 Eastern.  For more information, send us an email at info@diaperbanknetwork.org.

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