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Review for Friends Of Toms, Santa Monica, CA, USA

Rating: 4 stars  

This is the non-profit arm of TOMS Shoes, a retail shoe company that for every pair of shoes it sells, donates a pair to needy children in places like Argentina and South Africa. They sponsor "Shoe Drops" whereby volunteers travel to the country of the drop and help deliver the shoes. I participated on a drop in Mendoza, Argentina. The organization of the drop was good, aided by an experienced in-country coordinator named Jose Luis Verdejos. The other volunteers were positive, eager and great at making the kids feel comfortable. We must have passed out over 5,000 pair of shoes to kids aged from 9 months-18 years old. We also were able to experience a lot of the cultural of Argentina, a definite bonus!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

-the joy of the children who receive not only the shoes but the attention and care of the volunteers -the smiles of the parents as they see their children given special care and importance -the satisfaction and joy of the volunteers knowing that they've made a difference in some small way

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Build an alliance with some more established non-profits with similar goal of helping disadvantaged children. TOMS Shoes' brand is fun, edgy, cool with a great appeal among the 12-30 demo. It would be exciting to leverage TOMS' appeal with other non-profits whose brands lack "coolness" but offer more impactful positive change in areas of education/vocational training.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

They do a great job of combining doing good with having fun. Additionally, they have a great business model (1-for-1) which produces an excellent, low cost product (shoes). I've also enjoyed seeing how they reach out in the USA with their TOMS Vagabonds, spreading a message of giving back to the younger adults.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

-Young at heart, eager, passionate, from all walks of life -Usually speak more than 1 language -Have a hunger to grow intellectually as well as emotionally

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Hmmm....hire more people who understand non-profits, or, get the training they need to boost their knowledge

Ways to make it better...

-I'd love to see the coupling of the Shoe Drop with a more sustaining type of donation such as a books/technology plus training that would help some of these children in remote areas connect to the rest of the world

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

1) Friends of TOMS could greatly benefit from growing its non-profit expertise in terms of collaboration, communication with volunteers, organization of admin 2) Friends of TOMS challenge is to remain relevant in the marketplace without having a lasting, sustainable impact beyond giving away shoes 3) Friends of TOMS receives its "resources" from the for-profit TOMS Shoes. In a recession economy, this could be difficult to sustain.

One thing I'd also say is that...

The business is only 3 years old, started by someone who'd never really worked in non-profits before.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Volunteer & Worked for 1 week in Argentina giving away new shoes to needy children.