Don’t Toy With the Marine Corps
Toys for Tots has a similar relationship with retailer Best Buy. The electronics giant’s foundation approached the organization about 10 years ago.
Grein says the partnership started with a $250,000 grant for the purchase of gifts for preteens and teenagers. The partnership grew to include relationships with other companies such as studios that produce DVDs sold at Best Buy.
“Their foundation came to us because they like to do things for children,” Grein says. “Our brand is very strong and known as one of the No. 1 charities for getting gifts to families with children in need.”
The Best Buy relationship has raised at least $3 million for the organization since 1998 and helped it reach out to older kids through a Toys for Teens program in 2001.
“One problem we have is getting individual donations for preteens and early teens,” Grein says. “People always think about the little kids but can forget the older ones. [Best Buy] has been a leader in helping us reach those children at Christmas.”
Toys for Tots also has partnerships with UPS, Hasbro and Coca-Cola.
A (big) bump in the road
It’s hard to tell from its current success, but things haven’t always been all baby dolls and little red wagons for the organization, which found itself in the throes of a devastating financial scandal about 15 years ago.
In 1993, the founder of Toys for Tots’ national fundraising arm — the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation — was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the charity. It also was discovered that most of the money the foundation raised that year was used to cover expenses rather than to fund its actual mission. The scandal led donors to stop giving — both toys and dollars.
“Our biggest problem was that we entered into a very aggressive direct-marketing program where we raised $10 million — but it cost us $11 million to run the program,” Grein says. “We were unable to buy any toys with that much debt. It made us look very bad, very quickly.”
Related story: Marine Toys for Tots Foundation