Donation Stewardship: Using Money Wisely

By Jeff Grogan

For every dollar raised, 96 cents of your donation goes directly to make coats for kids in need. This is largely in part because of its dedicated staff and transparent policies. We never want you to wonder, “where your money goes.”

Your Donation, Our Promise

At Operation Warm, we care about our donors and partners. You trust us with your money because you believe it will be used efficiently and honestly. That’s why we publish our financial filings every year; feel free to fact-check us when we say that 96 percent of our revenue goes toward purchasing brand-new coats for kids who need them. Our commitment to transparency has also earned us GuideStar’s Platinum rating — their highest possible ranking for 501 (c)(3) organizations. These resources can give you more detailed information to answer the question: Where does your donation go.

Counting Costs

Operation Warm’s full-time staff works resourcefully and makes proactive changes to cut costs, which ensures each donation goes directly toward making a difference in kids’ lives. Several years ago, the accounting team converted their paperwork processes to online, paperless ones. “With this came savings on staff time, postage, office supplies and even filing cabinets,” said Laura Loveland, Operation Warm Senior Accountant. In addition, team members plan out-of-town events to combine two or three separate trips into one, drastically reducing travel spending. According to Loveland, these initiatives and many others allow Operation Warm’s small but dedicated staff to spend only what is absolutely necessary, using everything else to make brand-new coats for children in need.

The Operation Warm Process

Beyond financial clarity, we strive for narrative clarity as well. We want everyone to know how donations transform children’s lives across America. Though we fundraise year-round, we follow a yearly cycle of coat designing, producing and giving that’s easy to understand.

Design

Our team of experts begins researching fashion trends for next year’s coats in December, while also keeping track of what styles were most popular during the previous cycle of giving. In early spring, they inspect coat prototypes (some designs work well in theory, but look less-than-perfect in reality) and sign off on 36 different color and style combinations for this year’s production.

Produce

American manufacturers and overseas partners stitch together our custom designs all summer long, preparing to distribute over 300,000 coats before temperatures drop in the autumn months. Over 20 percent of all our coats are produced in the U.S., including 100 percent of coats purchased through Firefighters for Operation Warm.

Give

The best days of the year for Operation Warm volunteers are the ones where kids get to “shop” for their new winter coats. Bright, warm coats arranged by size fill cafeteria tables as kids pick out their favorite style and leave with what could be their first piece of brand-new clothing.

Studies show kids who live in poverty are more likely to miss school, act unsociably and have low self-esteem. A small difference like a warm winter coat can have a dramatic effect in a child’s life by enabling them to get to school when it’s cold out and play outside more. In addition, kids learn to take pride in and responsibility for owning their very own coat. What looks like just a practical piece of outerwear is actually so much more: these Operation Warm coats are tangible tokens of empowerment.

Join Our Movement

Our organization wouldn’t work without committed donors and partners, and we’re proud of the efficient and transparent way in which we use their resources. Whether donating time or money, any contribution to Operation Warm makes kids’ lives better in practical, long-lasting ways.

Jeff Grogan is a professional freelance writer and editor who volunteers with Operation Warm. “I work for Operation Warm because they meet practical needs for children in poverty and have a profound effect on communities. This organization does one thing exceedingly well, and is clear about its purpose and process.”

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